EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Border agencies need more resources to stem chaos once migrants are no longer expelled on public health grounds on May 23, a security expert says.
That’s because plans call for substituting immediate Title 42 expulsions with individual Title 8 processing that exceeds federal agencies’ capacities, said Victor M. Manjarrez Jr., a former U.S. Border Patrol chief agent in Tucson, Arizona, and El Paso, Texas.
“What the federal government is saying they’re going to do at the end of Title 42 is dependent on resources they do not have,” said the associate director of the Center for Law and Human Behavior at the University of Texas at El Paso. “They are going to get crushed. The Border Patrol is going to get crushed.”
The Biden administration last week announced the end of a Trump-era program that allowed both administrations to send newly arrived migrants back to Mexico to stem COVID-19 transmission. Immigration advocates said Title 42 ended up being used to deprive asylum-seekers and economic migrants of due process.
The Department of Homeland Security said ineligible migrants will still be removed under Title 8 but Manjarrez warns of severe manpower shortages.
“Title 8 means everyone gets taken back to the station,” he said. “Except for Mexican nationals that you can voluntarily return to Mexico, everyone else will be set up for a removal hearing unless they waive that right. That means the government should hold them until their hearing but, as we have seen, there’s no capacity for that.”
Manjarrez foresees a large increase in the number of migrants released on immigration parole or with notices to appear in court. That, in turn, could encourage even greater numbers of migrants to set off for the U.S. border and smuggling organizations to aggressively market their services.
“Once word of that gets out, the numbers are just going to steadily pick up. I don’t think the Border Patrol is going to hit 2 million (encounters), I think it’s going to be closer to 2.5 million and the problem is they will get tapped up because at 2.5 million they no longer have the capacity to arrest anyone,” Manjarrez said.
Border agencies in calendar year 2021 encountered more than 2 million migrants, expelling just over half to Mexico under Title 42.
Border Patrol union leaders earlier this week said agents are so busy transporting migrants to processing centers or helping with the processing that the number of agents actually patrolling the border has dwindled.
“The problem is that, in the midst of all that activity, the serious stuff gets through – the narcotics – because you can’t patrol because you’re holding a group on the ground waiting for transport, or you only have a handful of people in a shift in a large expanse and you can’t get to everything. The real danger is what in the world is getting away,” he said.
Further, the Biden administration has still not announced what additional resources it will dedicate to processing asylum-seekers at ports of entry after May 23 or how it intends to ensure the expected crowds don’t become an obstacle to the tens of thousands of legal border crossers that pass through every day.
In 2019, the federal government relied on Mexican partners to pre-screen and advise asylum-seekers and determine who and how many were allowed to cross into the United States on a given day. This time around, there’s no evidence the Biden administration intends to restore the so-called metering practice.
“There have been no agreements and very limited discussions so far with the Mexican government, so that’s going to be non-existing,” Manjarrez said. “You’re going to see what we saw in the past, a backup at the ports of entry as asylum-seekers come up. It’s going to flow back into (Mexico), it’s going to collapse their operations. I expect that’s something we will see at ports of entry.”
But the Biden administration has just over six weeks left to address logistical issues for which experts and the border agents who will be responsible for managing migration flows are publicly raising red flags.