US Lifts Pandemic-Era Policy, May See Unprecedented Spike In Migrants

CALIFORNIA -- An unprecedented spike in arrivals of migrants could come to the southern border if the Biden administration lifts a pandemic-era policy that allows border authorities to quickly remove migrants. Migrants have been expelled more than 1.7 million times from the United States under the March 2020 policy known as Title 42. The policy allows authorities to turn back asylum seekers on grounds of protecting the country against the coronavirus pandemic.

But the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday it would end the authority effective May 23. Meanwhile, CBS News reported that Homeland Security officials said Tuesday the Biden administration is building migrant holding facilities, seeking contracts for transportation services and sending more immigration agents to prepare for thousands more migrants at the southern border. Among worst-case scenarios that the agency is prepping for: having 12,000 to 18,000 migrants enter American custody every day, overwhelming the government's processing capacity.

The government must expand Customs and Border Protection holding capacity to accommodate up to 30,000 migrants a day, according to the agency's plan. Additionally, the government would have to send 2,500 law enforcement officers, nearly 2,800 support staff and over 1,000 medical personnel to the border in such a scenario. A record 2 million migrant were arrested last year, according to CBS News.

Currently, border agents are encountering about 7,100 migrants a day. Should pandemic-era capacity limits be eased, short-term border facilities could hold about 16,000 migrants a day. Alejandro Mayorkas, the Homeland Security secretary, said in a statement Friday that Title 42 was not an immigration authority, but rather a public health authority used to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

His agency will continue to expel single adults and families encountered at the southwest border until it expires, he said. "Once the Title 42 Order is no longer in place, DHS will process individuals encountered at the border pursuant to Title 8, which is the standard procedure we use to place individuals in removal proceedings. Nonetheless, we know that smugglers will spread misinformation to take advantage of vulnerable migrants.

Let me be clear: those unable to establish a legal basis to remain in the United States will be removed," Mayorkas said. He said the government must implement a holistic strategy to manage a potential spike in migrants. "We are increasing our capacity to process new arrivals, evaluate asylum requests, and quickly remove those who do not qualify for protection," Mayorkas said. "We will increase personnel and resources as needed and have already redeployed more than 600 law enforcement officers to the border.

We are referring smugglers and certain border crossers for criminal prosecution."