DAlejandro Mayorkas from the Department of Homeland Security circulated on Tuesday a 20-page document that described a six-pillar plan to handle an anticipated influx in migrants this summer at the U.S.–Mexico border.
The memo comes amid a looming legal and political firestorm over the Biden Administration’s decision earlier this month to terminate Title 42 by May 23, a controversial public health measure that has allowed federal officials to immediately expel migrants, including would-be asylum seekers, attempting to cross the border without authorization.
Parts of Mayorkas’s memo read as a preemptive political defense. “We are operating within a fundamentally broken immigration system that only Congress can fix,” he wrote. “After inheriting a broken and dismantled immigration system, the Biden-Harris Administration is securing the border and and building a fair, orderly, and humane immigration system.”
Republicans and moderate Democrats accused the Biden administration of ending Title 42, without any comprehensive plan for preventing an anticipated influx in immigration. If they don’t get the votes needed to reverse Title 42’s termination, the Senate and House have stopped the passage of a large funding bill. This includes both supplemental assistance to Ukraine and COVID-19 relief packages. Mayorkas appeared before the House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday and the House Committee on Homeland Security. He was quizzed by the lawmakers on the ending of Title 42. Thursday will see the House Judiciary Committee hear from DHS Chief.
Mayorkas’s memo also comes on the heels of a major court decision in a case brought by Louisiana, Arizona, and Missouri challenging the Administration’s decision to end Title 42. On Monday, Judge Robert Summerhays of the District Court Western District of Louisiana announced that he planned to grant a temporary restraining order in a case challenging the Biden Administration’s decision to end Title 42. This order would allow the Biden Administration’s to continue to apply Title 42 until the May 23rd deadline. The court will determine the time frame. The order would temporarily stop DHS’ implementation of parts of Mayorkas’ plan. It will also force the Administration to continue expulsions in Title 42.
Continue reading:Biden faces Republican outrage after announcing the end of Title 42
A senior administration official told reporters that DHS would comply with any future court order, but expressed frustration at the judge’s decision. “It really makes no sense to us that the plaintiffs would demand, and that the court would order, that DHS be stopped…in the aggressive application immigration law,” the official said. “So we will comply with the court order, but we…really disagree with the basic premise.”
“The ironic situation we find ourselves in is that the Biden administration has now produced the very plan they were accused of not having, at the same time as Republican Attorneys General have blocked the Biden Administration from putting that very same plan into place,” Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, Senior Policy Counsel at the American Immigration Council, tells TIME. “This puts the Biden administration in enormously difficult position. They are now forced to go to Congress and say we have a plan, but we aren’t allowed to use it.
Unrest at the U.S.-Mexico border
Officials from the United States have stated that Title 42 expulsions would likely lead to an increase in illegal migration along the U.S.-Mexico frontier. DHS has previously stated that, starting in May 23, DHS will begin processing 18,000 persons per day. This is an increase from 13,000 people per day beginning in 2021. This number could include asylum seekers, legal processes and international rights. Those who do not claim asylum, lose their asylum case, or who otherwise can’t argue for why they should be permitted to remain in the U.S., will be deported, according to DHS.
It is an important return to a Obama-era approach to border policy. The plan calls for an increase in law enforcement personnel at the U.S. frontier, construction of temporary processing facilities, expansion of the existing intelligence unit to track migration patterns and clamp down on smugglers and strict legal penalties on anyone who enters illegally.
DHS has recently deployed 600 additional U.S. Customs and Border Protection personnel (CBP), to the U.S.–Mexico border. This brings the total of CBP agents and CBP officers to CBP and other agencies to 23,000. According to the memo, 500 additional agents were also assigned by DHS for border security and migration processing.
Continue reading: Title 42 is Ending in May, But These Migrants Can’t Wait That Long
A senior administration official told reporters during a press call Tuesday that DHS intends to significantly expand the use of expedited removal—an agency authority that allows officers to immediately deport people who recently entered the U.S. unlawfully and are caught at or near the U.S.-Mexico border, without granting them an immigration hearing. According to a senior official, this plan will work alongside efforts to tackle the root causes behind migration.
Title 42 is a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention health order used by DHS to instantly expel anyone who attempts to travel into the U.S. unauthorized since March 2020. Title 42 is supposed to help reduce COVID-19 spread.
A few months away from the midterm elections in November, political mudslinging will be continuing on immigration policy. “We inherited a broken and dismantled system that is already under strain,” Mayorkas told the House Committee on Appropriations on Wednesday morning. “It is not built to handle the current levels and types of migratory flows. Only Congress can fix this.”
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