The Department of Homeland Security is projecting between 9,000 to 14,000 migrants may attempt to cross the US southern border a day when a Trump-era border policy ends in late December, more than double the current number of people crossing, according to a source familiar with the projections.
Officials are bracing for an influx of migrants trying to cross into the United States when the controversial public health authority, known as Title 42, ends in three weeks.
Since March 2020, border authorities have been able to turn away migrants encountered along the border under Title 42. That will no longer be the case in late December, as authorities return to traditional protocols following a court order earlier this month that struck down the policy.
Under those protocols, migrants are either removed from the country, detained or released into the US while their cases make their way through immigration court.
Officials earlier this year said they expected lifting Title 42 would prompt an increase of migrants trying to cross into the United States. The latest projections are in line with outcomes officials prepared for at the time, including a worst-case-scenario possibility that up to 18,000 migrants a day could try to cross the border.
Encounters along the US-Mexico border currently range between 6,000 to 7,000 a day amid mass migration in the Western hemisphere that’s been fueled by deteriorating conditions in the region.
In 2019, during the height of that year’s border crisis and prior to Title 42, there were up to nearly 6,000 encounters a day, according to a former Homeland Security official.
Sources cautioned that projections are fluid, given in part challenges in predicting migration patterns and people who attempt to cross more than once. DHS also uses projections to prepare resources for multiple scenarios.
“As was the case before Title 42 went into effect and will remain the case after it, individuals encountered at the border and without a legal basis to remain in the United States will be subject to prompt removal,” an administration official told CNN.
Title 42 was invoked at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic and has been fiercely criticized by immigrant advocates and public health experts who argue the authority has been used as a pretext to largely bar migrants from entering the country.
Border authorities used the public health restrictions to expel migrants nearly 2.5 million times in less than three years. But earlier this month, a federal judge struck down the restrictions. US District Judge Emmet Sullivan put his ruling on hold until midnight December 21.
DHS officials are pulling from border plans released over the spring to prepare for the end of Title 42, including, for example, considering additional soft-sided facilities to process migrants.
The department is also accelerating asylum processing times, doubling down on anti-smuggling operations, and coordinating with partners in the Western hemisphere, according to the administration official.
“As we prepare to transition to the next phase of our work to manage the border in a safe, orderly, and humane way, the Department of Homeland Security will continue to double down on these proven strategies,” the administration official said.