The US is taking new steps to reduce migrant arrivals when Title 42’s border rule ends in May


Washington – The Biden administration announced Thursday it will establish migrant processing centers in Latin America, increase deportations and expand legal migration routes to reduce the number of migrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border illegally.

The moves are part of the administration’s effort to reduce and slow migration to the US-Mexico border, where officials are preparing to end pandemic-era policies known as Title 42 This has enabled them to quickly expel migrants over 2.7 million times since March 2020 without processing their asylum applications.

Title 42 is scheduled to end on May 11 upon the expiration of the national COVID-19 public health emergency. Officials have internal forecasts that migrant arrivals at the southern border could surge to between 10,000 and 13,000 a day over the next month.

In fact, illegal border crossings have already increased in the run-up to the policy change, particularly in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, a senior US official told CBS News. On Tuesday alone, border police recorded 7,500 migrant arrests, a more than 40% increase from the daily average in March, the official said.

The stationary processing centers announced Thursday will serve as regional hubs to screen migrants and determine if they qualify for various options to enter the United States legally, including through traditional refugee resettlement, family visa programs, a sponsorship initiative for specific countries and temporary work visa.

The centers would be located at key chokepoints in Latin America that many migrants pass through en route to the US southern border, beginning with Colombia and Guatemala. Senior administration officials said the US is “in talks” with other countries to increase the number of processing centers.

migrants in Mexico
FILE – Men carry children on their shoulders as they head north on foot with other migrants on June 6, 2022 in Tapachula, Mexico.

Daniel Diaz/Picture Alliance via Getty Images

Migrants processed at the regional hubs will also be screened for eligibility to remain in the host country or be relocated to Canada or Spain, which have agreed to accept remittances from the centers, according to senior U.S. officials who order asked anonymity to discuss this plan during a briefing with reporters. CBS News first reported on the establishment of the migrant centers on Wednesday.

During a joint news conference with Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said the regional processing centers are expected to serve between 5,000 and 6,000 migrants each month.

“We work together with our regional partners. We go after the smugglers. We bring resources to the limit. But we cannot do everything we need to do until Congress provides the necessary resources and reforms,” ​​Mayorkas said.

The government also announced Thursday that it would expand a family reunification program that currently allows Haitians and Cubans to come to the United States once they have approved applications for immigrant visas from family members who are US citizens or permanent residents.

This program will be expanded to include Colombia, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, allowing citizens of these countries to enter the United States under Humanitarian Parole before their immigrant visas become available if their US-based relatives ask to sponsor them for a visa have been approved.

To prevent illegal crossings after Title 42 ends, the Biden administration has been working to pass a rule that would bar migrants from asylum if they enter the country illegally after living in a third country that they are on their transited to the United States, did not seek humanitarian protection

Administration officials have argued the policy, which resembles a Trump administrative rule, will prevent illegal crossings and encourage migrants to apply for two initiatives she unveiled in January: a sponsorship program that will allow up to 30,000 Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans and more and Venezuelans to fly to the United States every month and a phone app that allows asylum seekers in Mexico to apply for entry at ports of entry along the southern border.

In a statement Thursday, the Department of Homeland Security said the number of weekly deportation flights to some countries will double or triple. A senior government official said the US plans a “significant” expansion of expedited deportations under a procedure known as expedited deportation to impose “severe consequences” on those who enter the US without permits.

Once Title 42 is lifted, the US intends to continue deporting Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans and Venezuelans to Mexico if they illegally cross the southern border, the official said. The deportations would be conducted under immigration law rather than Title 42 and would result in a five-year ban on deportees leaving the United States. If they try to cross the border after being deported, they could be prosecuted, the official added.

The Biden administration also launched an initiative earlier this month to expedite the initial asylum reviews that migrants undergo if they are treated under regular immigration laws rather than Title 42. Migrants enrolled in the program are questioned by phone by US asylum officials during their stay in Border Police custody, a departure from the long-standing practice of waiting until they are placed in long-term facilities.

Earlier this week, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service announced it would reallocate nearly 480 staff to help the 1,000-strong asylum officer corps conduct those “credible fear” interviews that an insider said will determine whether migrants are deported or Requesting asylum may receive notification from CBS News.

The measures announced on Thursday also addressed concerns about the sharp rise in sea migration in the Caribbean and Florida Straits over the past year. The government said it would bar Cuban and Haitian migrants from the sponsorship program launched earlier this year if they were banned at sea by the US Coast Guard.

During the briefing with reporters, a senior US official noted that the administration is “fully aware that many of these measures are prone to litigation,” and said the only “permanent solution” could come from Congress. Republican-run states are currently seeking a federal judge to block the sponsorship program, arguing that the administration does not have the authority to accept 30,000 migrants outside the visa system each month.

The processing centers are part of a broader campaign by the Biden administration to enlist the help of Western Hemisphere countries to deal with unauthorized migration — a commitment the 20 nations made in the Los Angeles Declaration on Migration and Protection during the summit of the Americas received in June 2022 .

Earlier this month, the U.S., Colombian and Panamanian governments announced a two-month operation to curb migrant smuggling in the Darién Gap, a roadless and mountainous jungle through which tens of thousands of migrants traversed last year en route to the U.S.-Mexico border.

As part of planning surrounding the end of Title 42, U.S. officials have considered reintroducing the practice of incarcerating some migrant families with children in detention centers, a controversial policy the Biden administration scrapped in 2021.

Asked if the practice would be revived, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas CBS News said during an interview last week that “no decision” had been made.

During Thursday’s press conference, Mayorkas said the government had “no plan to arrest families”.

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