Border officials are expecting and preparing for an April announcement of plans to end a pandemic policy implemented by the Trump administration that allows for immediately turning migrants back to Mexico, multiple government officials told the Washington Examiner.
Democrats and immigrant advocates have pushed President Joe Biden to end the policy, saying that it unfairly prevents migrants from making legitimate asylum claims.
Republicans, though, have warned that undoing the policy, known as Title 42, will further overwhelm Border Patrol agents and facilities, pulling agents from the field and leaving the border wide open and easily penetrable.
Title 42 is technically a public health order promulgated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Three senior Customs and Border Protection officials and a Border Patrol union leader told the Washington Examiner that the expectation at the agency is that CDC will choose not to renew Title 42 when it expires on April 20 and that the CBP is preparing to announce plans for handling the change before then.
The White House has maintained that the decision will be made by the CDC on the basis of its scientific expertise, but officials say they are sure that the administration will choose to end the order.
“I’m certain the decision has been made by CDC and talks are taking place between agencies to figure out how to announce it and be prepared for the further invasion on the [southwest] border,” a senior CBP official wrote in a text on Wednesday, referencing internal discussions at the agency.
The Department of Homeland Security, CBP’s parent agency, said in an email Tuesday evening that it is awaiting the CDC’s decision.
“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Title 42 Order remains in place, and the Department of Homeland Security continues to process individuals pursuant to the Order,” a DHS spokesman wrote. “Title 42 is a public health authority that is deployed by the CDC. It is not an immigration authority. DHS will continue to defer to public health experts on decisions related to Title 42 while continuing to develop safe, legal, and orderly pathways for migration.”
BIDEN EFFORT TO LIMIT ICE ENFORCEMENT BLOCKED BY FEDERAL JUDGE
At the start of the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020, the Trump administration invoked Title 42 of the Public Health Service Act of 1944, which gave the CDC the ability to recommend denying admission into the country of goods and people who pose a risk of spreading a communicable disease. Since that time, U.S. officials have expelled people 1.6 million times, though some were turned away more than once.
A major consideration for the Biden administration is that ending the order could prompt a “mass migration event,” Axios reported last week.
The number of people encountered attempting to enter the U.S. illegally from Mexico is already rising, possibly as migrants and cartels that smuggle people into the U.S. anticipate the coming change in policy. Border officials are on track to surpass 200,000 encounters of illegal immigrants in March, up from 164,000 in February, according to Brandon Judd, National Border Patrol Council president.
The current surge will be comparable to last July’s 213,000 encounters, near the highest number in the Border Patrol’s 98-year existence. Border officials who spoke with the Washington Examiner said that more migrants are crossing now in hopes that they will be released into the U.S. rather than removed from the country.
“Intel stats [show that] there are tens of thousands just waiting in Mexico for it to end. [Border Patrol] capacity will be reached in a few days and we will be forced to release subjects on the street,” a senior Border Patrol official wrote in an email. “This will cause even more to flood across the border. We will see something we have never seen before. The border will be open for narcotics to cross since everyone will be processing.”
Over the weekend, Border Patrol agents in the remote border region of Del Rio, Texas, encountered more than 2,500 people who had illegally crossed the border between ports of entry.
The influx of people and shortage of space has put Border Patrol facilities in Del Rio, as well as Yuma, Arizona, at four times the legal capacity the building ought to hold, Judd said. As a result, the Border Patrol has been releasing a growing number into the U.S. on parole or with papers mandating them to show up to immigration court.
Today Uvalde officials alerted me that migrant facilities in the area are overcapacity and Border Patrol will be forced to release them at Stripes.
Local authorities & Border Patrol have been completely handcuffed by the Admin. This White House has failed our border communities.
— Rep. Tony Gonzales (@RepTonyGonzales) March 22, 2022
“Today Uvalde officials alerted me that migrant facilities in the area are overcapacity and Border Patrol will be forced to release them at Stripes,” Rep. Tony Gonzales, a Texas Republican, tweeted Tuesday, referencing a gas station. “Local authorities & Border Patrol have been completely handcuffed by the Admin. This White House has failed our border communities.”
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“What the administration is going to come back and say is, ‘The CDC dictates this. We don’t,'” Judd said. “But we know the CDC isn’t going to do anything that the administration doesn’t want them to do.”