EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – The Biden administration is making contingency plans to deal with a three-fold increase in migration upon lifting of the Title 42 public health order, a California congresswoman says.
“They are making plans for multiple stages based on the number of daily encounters,” U.S. Rep. Judy Chu, D-California, said in a press call with reporters on Thursday. “They are making contingency plans for up to three times the amount of migrants that they’re seeing right now.”
U.S. Customs and Border Protection last reported 164,973 migrant encounters at the Southwest border in February, a 7 percent increase over January.
Chu said the planning includes looking for resources to transport migrants – including possible air transportation from the Department of the Interior and the U.S. Forestry Service – as well as recruiting additional personnel.
“For facilities, they’ve got contracts ready for soft-sided such as tents, but the issue will be security land for those tents to be placed. They’re having a challenge finding staff with the proper background […] they’re issuing (Department of Homeland Security) volunteer requests,” said Chu, whose staff received a briefing from the administration on Tuesday.
The challenges stem from the expected termination of Title 42 as early as May 23, which could reopen the borders to asylum-seekers. At least 20,000 migrants are known to be holding up in Mexican border cities waiting for the opportunity to petition for U.S. asylum.
While Title 42 has been in force, asylum-seekers haven’t been allowed to petition for asylum at U.S. ports of entry. The policy has been used to expel more than a million migrants who entered the U.S. without authorization, though it’s not clear how many of those were asylum-seekers and how many economic migrants.
Chu and U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-Texas, said they welcome the end of Title 42 despite whatever temporary challenges the change in policy may bring.
Chu urged the administration to establish better communication with state and local leaders in border communities to ensure a good outcome.
Both lawmakers opined that the administration is “working very hard” to humanely deal with asylum-seekers.
‘Humanitarian’ center proposed for El Paso
Escobar on Thursday reiterated calls for the administration to establish in-country processing for asylum seekers rather than wait for them to make long and perilous trips to make a claim at the U.S. border. The federal government previously established a mechanism called Central American Minors program that does just that, and which could be expanded.
“Addressing immigration exclusively at our nation’s borders represents a failure of vision and policy. Outdated policies and processes harm migrants and asylum-seekers, waste millions of dollars annually, misuse law enforcement personnel, and do not make us more ‘secure,’” she said.
Escobar also called on the administration to establish a humanitarian processing center in her El Paso district. The center would use civilian personnel instead of Border Patrol or CBP officers to process asylum-seekers.
“If we re-envision our immigration policies to be more strategic and humane, we can simultaneously create a more just and orderly process at our southern border, better use our resources, and prioritize both security and human dignity,” she said.
Solange Gould, a 25-year public health veteran, agrees that asylum-seekers should be treated better at processing centers.
“They should be staffed by public health workers ready to provide needed care, not by law-enforcement or Border Patrol,” said Gould, co-director of Human Impact Partners, a national public health and equity organization. “More harm is done when law enforcement is present where (health services) are provided” because it only exacerbates the migrants’ trauma of past violence and oppression.
Escobar also renewed a call for Congress to bring about immigration reform.
“Congress has an obligation to act on reforming outdated immigration laws,” she said, taking a stab at Republicans she says are obstructing pathways to additional legal migration at every turn. “Calls for vulnerable populations to ‘get in line’ or ‘do it the right way’ reflect an ignorance about the limited legal opportunities that exist. It falls on those of us in Congress to create those legal opportunities that would go a long way in addressing the challenges and opportunities we face at our nation’s front door and beyond.”