The Biden Administration is preparing for a potential mass release of migrants into the United States if non-governmental organizations (NGOs) reach their capacity limits.
According to multiple sources, the top border officials in Washington, D.C. have authorized all border patrol sectors to begin "safe" mass releases should the NGOs reach their limits. The consequence of this decision is that migrants will be released to bus stops, gas stations, supermarkets, and cities across the border, as Customs and Border Protection (CBP) facilities are already over capacity in multiple sectors.
The mass releases have been authorized only if NGOs run out of space, but officials believe that is likely. In the past 72 hours, the CBP has seen 26,000 apprehensions and 7,000 “gotaways”. This number is expected to surge even more once the Title 42 public health order is lifted on May 11.
The Title 42 public health order has been used since 2020 by both the Trump and Biden administrations to expel hundreds of thousands of migrants quickly due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In March, nearly half of all migrant encounters ended in a Title 42 expulsion.
The predominantly single adult migrants are expected to be encouraged by the belief they have a greater chance of being admitted into the U.S. once the order ends. However, the Biden administration has warned that it is stiffening penalties for illegal entry and urged migrants to use expanded legal pathways instead.
“As we have said repeatedly, individuals who do not have a lawful basis to remain will be removed,” said acting CBP Commissioner Troy Miller late Monday. “Individuals should not listen to the lies of smugglers and instead use lawful pathways to protection.”
The Biden administration has been scrambling to reduce the number of illegal crossings and establish a more orderly process. This week, the administration sent 1,500 troops to the border for a supporting role to Customs and Border Protection. DHS has also proposed a new asylum rule intended to bar migrants from claiming asylum if they cross the border illegally and have also failed to claim asylum in a country through which they have already passed.
In response to the El Paso surge, authorities announced a "targeted enforcement operation" in the city. The operation will see agents “process individuals for vetting and placement into Title 42 expulsion or Title 8 removal proceedings, as applicable,” CBP said in a release. Those who are deemed to pose a national security or public safety threat will be moved to ICE for detention.
The mass release of migrants into the U.S. interior is likely to undermine the Biden administration’s narrative of encouraging migrants to use expanded legal pathways instead of illegal ones. However, the administration maintains that the border is not open and is urging migrants to not listen to smugglers’ lies.
The U.S. is partnering with Latin American governments to expand legal pathways and migrant processing centers are being established throughout South and Central America. The DHS has also distributed an additional $332 million in funding to NGOs and local governments to aid migrants released from custody.
The Biden administration is attempting to curb illegal migration, but the prospect of mass releases into the U.S. interior of those who have illegally entered the country is a worrying one. Only time will tell how this policy will play out.