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The Biden administration is mobilizing U.S. troops, asylum officers and medics on the border to prepare for a new influx of asylum-seekers and other migrants when border expulsions carried out under a Title 42 pandemic policy cease later this week, according to senior administration officials and a planning document provided to The Washington Post.
The expulsions imposed by the Trump administration in March 2020 as COVID-19 gripped the nation will end at 11:59 p.m. Eastern on Thursday when the public health emergency expires.
State Department and Department of Homeland Security officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity to describe the plans Tuesday evening, reiterated in a conference call with reporters that their strategy is to deter illegal crossings on the border, deport those who are ineligible for protection and work with other countries to welcome migrants who apply to get in legally.
The U.S. government expelled more than 2 million migrants under the Title 42 policy, often sending them into Mexico to try again. Migrants say they are fleeing poverty and repression in countries such as Venezuela, and the expulsion policy carried no legal consequences for attempting to reenter multiple times. That will change, officials said.
The end of the Title 42 policy means the return of Title 8, the federal law that deals with immigration processing.
Now, migrants who attempt to cross the border multiple times would be prohibited from reentering the United States for at least five years and subject to criminal prosecution for reentering the country without permission, officials said.
Among other plans for the end of the Title 42 policy announced late Tuesday:
- The Biden administration has said it will send another 1,500 troops to the Mexican border — to join 2,500 National Guard troops already there, for a total of 4,000 military personnel — to aid U.S. Customs and Border Protection with surveillance and data entry. The first set of troops will head to El Paso on Wednesday, officials said. The troops will join asylum officers, medics and 24,000 Department of Homeland Security officers and agents in managing the expected influx.
- Officials also published a new emergency rule Wednesday restricting asylum starting on Thursday. Federal law allows anyone who sets foot on U.S. soil and expresses a fear of returning to their home country for specific reasons, such as their political opinion, to apply for humanitarian protection. The new rule will presume that migrants are ineligible for asylum if they had traveled through another country where they could have sought protection instead.
- Officials said they will open the first “regional processing centers” in Colombia and Guatemala to direct migrants to legal pathways into this country and possibly others. The State Department said it eventually plans to open about 100 regional processing centers throughout the Western Hemisphere.
- In coming days, officials will launch a new online platform for migrants to make appointments to arrive at a center, where more than 140 Homeland Security and State Department officials, working with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Organization for Migration, will direct migrants to refugee resettlement in the United States or other pathways into this country, Canada or Spain.
- CBP and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, both Department of Homeland Security agencies, will expand enforcement. CBP opened a pair of new holding facilities this week, and ICE will add 5,000 beds and expand deportation flights. Health and Human Services is also increasing its capacity to shelter unaccompanied migrant children and teens, who have been crossing the border in record numbers.
- On Wednesday, officials will transition the troubled CBP One app to a new appointment scheduling system that will give migrants more opportunities to schedule an appointment, with priority given to those who have waited the longest.
The measures are in addition to past efforts to discourage mass migration, including doubling the number of refugees to be accepted from the Western Hemisphere, sending U.S. authorities to the Darién Gap to prevent migrants from being smuggled through the jungle between Colombia and Panama, and accepting up to 30,000 people a month from Venezuela, Nicaragua, Cuba and Haiti as long as they apply legally through a process known as parole.
Mexico has agreed to accept the same number of deportees from those countries each month, if they do not apply legally.
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