President Joe Biden’s administration has released a plan to deal with the expected surge in illegal immigration across the U.S.–Mexico border once the emergency Title 42 policy is terminated in May.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas laid out the plan in a 20-page memorandum, outlining a series of “pillars” that officials are already putting into place.
In addition to deploying more resources such as agents to the border, the Department of Homeland Security is working to process illegal immigrants more quickly and expelling those who aren’t allowed to stay under federal law, according to the memo.
The government is also “bolstering the capacity” of nongovernmental groups (NGOs) to receive illegal immigrants after they’re released by federal agents and disrupting criminal groups and smugglers who seek to smuggle people and/or drugs into the United States.
Mayorkas claimed that, overall, the administration is “sending a clear message” that the end of Title 42—the emergency order that enables quick expulsion of many illegal aliens—”does not mean that the U.S. border is open.”
Still, the Biden appointee repeated a charge he has made before: that the U.S. immigration system is broken and that his department is constrained by the current laws.
“Our outdated immigration system was not built to manage the current levels and types of migratory flows that we are experiencing and is already under strain. However, we have been able to manage increased encounters because of prudent planning and execution, and the talent and unwavering dedication of the DHS workforce and our state, local, and community partners,” Mayorkas said.
“Despite these efforts, a significant increase in migrant encounters will substantially strain our system even further. We will address this challenge successfully, but it will take time, and we need the partnership of Congress, state and local officials, NGOs, and communities to do so. We are operating within a fundamentally broken immigration system that only Congress can fix.”
The memo is largely the same as a strategy detailed on March 30 and shows that the administration’s plan is “to facilitate the increased flow of people,” Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, told The Epoch Times.
“The issue is that there’s a basic disagreement about what the goal at the southwest border should be. The administration does not believe that we should be deterring the flow of illegal migrants. They just want to make sure it’s done efficiently, quickly,” he said.
A separate document from Mayorkas’s agency, dated Feb. 17 and leaked to the press, showed that officials expect major surges along the border once Title 42 ends.
Title 42 is an order that was imposed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) early in the pandemic. The order says that, due to illegal immigrants potentially having COVID-19, quick expulsion can be done to protect the health of Americans.
The CDC, with backing from Mayorkas and the White House, recently announced that it would terminate the order on May 23. Officials said that the plunge in COVID-19 metrics in recent months, coupled with the rise of people vaccinated and the availability of COVID-19 treatments, meant the order was no longer necessary.
Immigration agents have since scaled back utilization of the powers, though they are likely to be blocked from doing so soon. A federal judge said this week he would soon enter a ruling prohibiting the termination of the order, as several lawsuits against the administration wend their way through the courts.
Virtually all Republicans and many Democrats in Congress oppose ending Title 42. Legislation that would bar Biden’s administration from terminating the powers unless the president also ends the COVID-19 national emergency has been drawing bipartisan support.
Some members have accused the administration of not having a plan for when Title 42 ends. Some have argued that COVID-19 still presents a threat, and noted that the administration has sought to keep other pandemic-era rules in place, such as the federal mask mandate.
After Title 42 ends, agents can still expel immigrants under Title 8, a federal law, but most immigrants who claim asylum will be freed into the U.S. interior until their claims are adjudicated, even though the bulk of asylum claims are determined to be illegitimate. A number of the immigrants skip the court hearings, staying in the United States indefinitely.
“Smugglers have that all figured out,” Krikorian said. “They coach people on what to say, and this administration thinks that any claim of persecution—no matter how flimsy or improbable—is reason enough to be let go into the United States.”
So far this fiscal year, which started in October 2021, the administration has expelled more aliens using Title 42 than Title 8. That includes 107,170 expulsions under Title 42 in March, versus 102,851 under Title 8.
The administration presided over the highest illegal immigration totals in history in Biden’s first year in office. Based on the first three months of 2022, another record will be set in Biden’s second year.
Officials are grappling with the ramifications of the high levels of immigration, which have added to the backlog of asylum claims—nearly 1.4 million cases are pending—and are necessitating the expansion of programs called Alternatives to Detention that let illegal immigrants “remain in their communities” while complying with mandated attendance at court hearings and, in certain cases, forced departure from America, homeland security officials said in a recent budget request.
The administration asked for increased funding for multiple prongs of the immigration system, including extra money to expand the alternatives programs, to add judges to asylum courts, and to ramp up the number of agents at the border.
Mayorkas was scheduled to answer questions from Congress in Washington on April 27 and 28.