The United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced Thursday more migrants might be released into the U.S. to pursue immigration cases when the Trump-era asylum restrictions end next week.
Lawmakers familiar with the decision by the DHS say border officials estimate about 50,000 migrants could be waiting to cross into the country.
The expiring legislature, Title 42 of the U.S. Code, which will come to an end Dec. 21 was put into effect by former President Donald Trump in March of 2020 to minimize the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the. Extended by President Joe Biden.
The law was actually first introduced in 1944 to slow the spread of influenza.
In a detailed assessment ahead of the significant policy shift, the department reported faster processing for migrants in custody at the border, more temporary dentition tents, staffing surges, and increased criminal prosecutions of smugglers, noting that they are working on a plan that will be announced in spring.
The seven-page document included no structural changes amid the large numbers of migrants entering the country, with more expected following the end of Title 42 authority.
Under Title 42, migrants were denied the ability to seek asylum following the COVID-19 pandemic.
Recently, a federal judge in Washington ordered Title 42 to end in late December, but Republican-led states asked an appeals court to keep the law in place. The Biden administration has challenged some aspects of the ruling but does not oppose allowing the rule to end next week.
DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas traveled several days ago to El Paso, Texas, witnessing a large influx Sunday after becoming the busiest avenue for illegal crossing in October. The city of El Paso has been a magnet for Latin American migrants ranging from Venezuela, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Cuba, Colombia, and Ecuador.
Customs and Borders Protection officials told lawmakers Wednesday that around 50,000 migrants are believed to be waiting to cross once Title 42 is lifted.
Authorities plan to admit individuals seeking asylum who go through ports of entry but return those who cross illegally between official crossings.
Lawmakers and administration officials say they expect the first week to be chaotic, given the numerous issues regarding migrant processing.
Currently, DHS officials in El Paso are exempting 70 migrants daily from Title 40.
In the latest assessment, Customs and Border Protection said government agencies have “been managing levels well beyond the capacity for which their infrastructure was designed and resourced, meaning additional increases will create further pressure and potential overcrowding in specific locations along the border.”
According to the DHS, single adults and families with young children may be released into communities with instructions to appear in immigration court with help of non-government groups or financial sponsors.
The department did not indicate how many migrants may cross into the homeland when Title 42 ends, but earlier this year, officials expected as many as 18,000 a day. In May, border officials stopped migrants an average of 7,800 times a day.
At the end of the fiscal year in late September, migrants were stopped 2.38 million times, going up from 1.73 million in 2021, with the annual total surpassing 12 million for the first time.
Since the election of President Biden in 2020, the administration has removed DHS policies enacted under the Trump administration, leading to numerous problems at the U.S. Southern border.
For the past several months, Border Security officials involved in handling the border crisis have blamed Secretary Mayorkas and the President for their actions and have called on the administration to deal with the situation.
Lawmakers in the House and Senate have called on the administration to explain their actions and why the administration has not been able to stop the large influxes of migrants.