Amid pressing concerns that a surge of migrant crossings would be triggered by the expiration of the US border restriction policy known as Title 42, some southern border communities have reported receiving fewer-than-expected migrant arrivals since the policy has been lifted.
“We continue to encounter high levels of non-citizens at the border but we did not see a substantial increase overnight or an influx (of migrants) at midnight” after the policy expired Thursday night, Blas Nuñez-Neto, Department of Homeland Security assistant secretary for border and immigration policy, said Friday morning.
Officials have warned that the lifting of Title 42 – a controversial Trump-era policy from the start of the Covid-19 pandemic which allowed authorities to swiftly turn away migrants encountered at the US-Mexico border – could invite a crush of migrants and aggravate the humanitarian crisis at the southern border. The policy’s expiration is due to the declared end of the national public health emergency around Covid-19.
Even before the lifting of Title 42, border community leaders have said they are overwhelmed by the flow of migrant arrivals and are struggling to meet their needs as social services are pushed to the brink.
In anticipation of the policy’s expiration, federal and local authorities have been bracing for the anticipated influx, including at least two South Texas counties that issued preemptive disaster declarations. The Department of Homeland Security and Department of Defense have also sent thousands of personnel to the border to support local authorities, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said Wednesday.
Officials warn of potential for dangerous overcrowding
Despite the relative calm on the border at the end of Title 42, US authorities are warning that migrant processing and detention facilities could become dangerously overcrowded in the aftermath of the pandemic-era immigration restriction.
The Biden administration was dealt a significant stumbling block when the state of Florida sued to halt a key part of its plan to manage the anticipated border crossings.
The plan, which was temporarily blocked by a federal judge in Florida on Thursday, would allow US Customs and Border Protection to release some apprehended migrants from its custody without court dates or, in some cases, release them with conditions.
In an emergency motion seeking a stay of the temporary restraining order, US immigration officials warned that without measures to conditionally release some migrants, there could be over 45,000 migrants in custody by the end of the month.