McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — Multiple federal agencies are coming together as part of a massive “whole of government effort” to secure the border, ensure migrants are processed humanely and quickly, and deter drug cartel operations in anticipation of the lifting of Title 42, White House officials told media Tuesday afternoon.
The Department of Homeland Security released a memo that included several steps the Biden administration is taking to prevent an uncontrollable surge of asylum-seekers at the Southwest border, these officials said.
Senior administration officials also said the Biden administration disagrees with Monday’s announcement by a federal judge in Louisiana who plans to issue a temporary restraining order that would prevent the lifting of Title 42 on May 23.
But officials said that if forced by a court, the administration will comply with the rulings.
“It really makes no sense to us,” the senior administration official said. “We will comply with the court order but we are really disagreeing with the basic premise.”
Title 42 is a Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) public health law enacted by the Trump administration in March 2020 to prevent the spread of coronavirus across borders. If lifted, many border leaders, as well as lawmakers both Democratic and Republican, fear that thousands of migrants who are waiting south of the Rio Grande will try to surge the Southwest border and overwhelm local authorities.
A lawsuit filed in early April by Louisiana, Missouri and Arizona against the Biden administration seeks to keep Title 42 to prevent an increase in asylum seekers crossing the U.S. border.
The plan announced Tuesday by DHS includes six major pillars and involves multiple government agencies that would help to:
- Surge law enforcement resources to the border.
- Increase U.S. Customs and Border Protection processing facilities.
- Level consequences for unlawful entry into the United States.
- Bolster NGOs that help asylum seekers.
- Target transnational criminal organizations and human trafficking operations at the border.
- Deter irregular migration throughout the Western hemisphere by working with other countries on root causes for asylum seekers leaving their homelands.
White House officials stressed that when Title 42 is lifted that expedited removals of migrants who do not qualify for asylum in the United States will continue under Title 8 enforcement actions.
“When the Title 42 order is lifted we intend to significantly expand the use of expedited removals through our Title 8 authorities and thereby impose long term law enforcement consequences on those who seek to cross the border without a lawful basis to do so,” the official said.
At least 600 additional law enforcement agents will be sent to the border region.
CBP processing facilities will be bolstered to more quickly screen migrants. This includes nine additional soft-sided facilities built on the border that can handle 18,000 migrants per day.
These facilities are located in South Texas in Laredo, Brownsville and other areas along the border where asylum-seekers have increased to historic numbers since President Joe Biden took office.
DHS officials also have “doubled their ability to transport individuals,” officials said.
The coordination of multi-agencies to screen and process asylum-seekers will involve officials from DHS, the Justice Department, and Health and Human Services, which processes unaccompanied minor migrant children.
Federal agencies also will provide and gather “intelligence to help get early warning of migrants surges as they are building,” officials said.
Credible fear interviews will be streamlined, as will removal flights for those who do not qualify, according to the administration.
The plan announced Tuesday is similar to the “all of government approach” that Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas mentioned a few weeks ago.
Officials said that listed the tactical “playbook” for operations, but this fills in the roles that other agencies also will play as they prepare for the end of Title 42.
“We are 30 days out roughly from the end of Title 42 and we thought it was prudent to produce this document that does not just include what’s in our plan but really memorializes all the efforts that have been underway for many months, over a year in some cases, to address all of these issues in a holistic and comprehensive way,” the official said.
Mayorkas is scheduled to testify before Congress on Wednesday and Thursday regarding border operations and security measures.