US plans more releases of migrants when asylum restrictions end

WASHINGTON – The Department of Homeland Security, in one of its most detailed assessments ahead of the big policy shift, said more migrants could be released into the United States to pursue immigration cases when Trump-era asylum restrictions end next week.

The department reported faster processing of migrants in detention at the border, more makeshift detention tents, staff increases and increased prosecutions of smugglers, noting progress on a plan announced in April.

But the seven-page document on Tuesday included no major structural changes amid an unusually large number of migrants entering the country. More are expected with the end of the authority of Title 42, under which migrants have been denied the right to seek asylum more than 2.5 million times to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

A federal judge in Washington ordered title 42 to end on December 21, but Republican-run states asked an appeals court to keep it in place. The Biden administration has it too challenged some aspects of the verdict, although it doesn’t mind the rule expiring next week. The legal back and forth could go down to the last detail.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas traveled this week to El Paso, Texas, which saw a large influx on Sunday after becoming the busiest corridor for illegal crossings in October. El Paso was a magnet for Venezuelans, Nicaraguans, Cubans, Colombians, Ecuadorians and other nationalities.

The geographic shift toward the westernmost reaches of Texas was likely the result of smugglers’ calculations of the best route, said Nicolas Palazzo, an attorney at the Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center in El Paso.

Like other stakeholders who work directly with Homeland Security, Palazzo said he has not had discussions with the department about Title 42 planning. A key question: How will the authorities deal with migrants who have waited a long time to apply for asylum?

U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, said Customs and Border Protection officials told him Wednesday about 50,000 migrants are waiting to cross the border once Title 42 is lifted.

Authorities plan to accept asylum seekers who go through ports of entry but return to Mexico those who cross illegally between official crossings, Cuellar said in an interview. It was unclear how they will return nationalities that Mexico doesn’t accept — like Cubans and Nicaraguans — and who are difficult to send home due to strained diplomatic relations and other challenges.

Administration officials are developing additional measures that Cuellar said they would not disclose.

“I think the first week will be a little bit messy,” he said.

U.S. officials in El Paso are currently extricating 70 Title 42 migrants a day, said Palazzo, who questioned how officials would handle more people.

Unless they significantly increase processing capacity, migrants crossing official border crossings may be told to wait about a year for an appointment, Palazzo said. “Can you realistically tell me with a straight face that you expect people to wait that long?”

In its most recent assessment, CBP said government agencies “have managed levels well in excess of the capacity for which their infrastructure was designed and resourced, meaning additional increases create further pressure and potential congestion at certain locations along the border.” will”.

More single adults and families with young children could be released in communities with orders to appear before an immigration court without help from non-governmental groups or financial sponsors, the ministry said.

The department did not specify how many migrants will be allowed to cross the border when Title 42 ends. Earlier this year, they expected up to 18,000 a day, a staggering number. In May, the peak month of Joe Biden’s presidency, migrants were stopped an average of 7,800 times a day.

In the fiscal year that ended September 30, migrants were stopped 2.38 million times until 37% from 1.73 million times the year before. The annual total exceeded 2 million for the first time.

The numbers reflect deteriorating economic and political conditions in some countries, the relative strength of the US economy and uneven enforcement of Trump-era asylum restrictions.


Spagat reported from San Diego.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed without permission. US plans more releases of migrants when asylum restrictions end

Sarah Y. Kim

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