Biden Vows to Add Feds at Border, Boost Efforts to Reduce Crossings
The administration will also expand humanitarian programs, though staffing shortfalls could hurt implementation.
President Biden on Thursday announced his administration will once surge federal employees and other resources to the border as it ramps up its efforts to crack down on unlawful migrant crossings at the U.S.-Mexico border, pairing the new policies with additional pathways for legal migration.
In announcing his plan, Biden blasted Republicans for standing in the way of additional hiring of border personnel even as he pledged to deploy more to confront the rising number of migrants. Biden had requested an appropriation of $3.5 billion to address the border situation to support the hiring of 2,000 asylum officers and 100 immigration judges, but instead Congress provided a one-time jolt of $1.6 billion that placed restrictions on permanent hires.
Biden said the policy known as Title 42 will expand to include Cubans, Nicaraguans and Haitians. The Trump administration first implemented the restrictive initiative during the COVID-19 outbreak to immediately expel many undocumented migrants arriving at the border without considering them for asylum, though migrants from several countries were exempt because the United States has limited diplomatic relationships with their governments. Biden will couple the ramped up security efforts with expanded legal immigration for individuals from those countries, offering entry to certain individuals with a U.S. sponsor through a program known as humanitarian parole.
The Biden administration implemented a similar program for Venezuelans in October, which led to a dramatic drop in those individuals illegally crossing the border. DHS will aim to admit 30,000 Venezuelans, Haitians, Cubans and Nicaraguans per month through humanitarian parole. Those who do not take advantage of the streamlined online application system and instead attempt to unlawfully cross the border will now be immediately turned away and sent into Mexico, pending the Mexican government’s approval of the plan.
Biden pointed to the success of the efforts with Venezuelans to justify its expansion.
“This new process is orderly, it’s safe and humane,” Biden said. “And it works.”
Biden has sought to end Title 42 ever since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggested it was no longer necessary to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but has run into repeated legal roadblocks. The policy was most recently set to expire in December, but the Supreme Court intervened at the 11th hour and ruled it must stay in place while it considers a lawsuit brought by more than a dozen Republican-led states.
By expanding the border policy to a larger share of the population making illegal crossings, Biden is taking a more restrictive approach favored by Republicans that have consistently bashed the president’s handling of the uptick. He sought to balance that with increased legal admissions and promised to triple refugee resettlement from the Western Hemisphere. The administration has previously fallen well short of its lofty goals on refugee admissions. The president did not lay out any specific efforts to boost staffing to process either the parolees or refugees, despite the State Department complaining the Trump administration had “decimated” its ranks and it could therefore not meet Biden’s goals for resettlement.
Last month, the Biden administration rolled out a plan to handle the significant increase in migrant crossing that was expected to accompany the end of Title 42's enforcement. It included deploying thousands of employees from within DHS, other federal agencies and contractors to the southwest, as well as hiring 1,000 new coordinators to process the record numbers of migrants arriving at the border. DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said federal resources at the border were already “under strain” and the end of Title 42 was likely to “strain our system even further.” Border Patrol arrested 2.4 million migrants in fiscal 2022, an all-time record inflated by the expulsion policy that allowed migrants to make repeated attempts to enter the United States.
The White House and DHS again stressed the administration will increase personnel and other resources at the border, including to boost the use of the “expedited removal” process for those not subject to Title 42. Unlike those turned away through the pandemic-era policy, migrants expelled through expedited removal face a five-year ban on re-entry into the U.S. The administration also said on Thursday it is surging asylum officers and immigration judges to “review asylum cases at the border more quickly.” DHS vowed to continue hiring and deploying personnel to address needs at the border, though Biden expected the shortfalls to continue.
We don't have enough asylum officers or personnel to determine whether people qualify for asylum,” Biden said. “We don't have enough immigration judges to adjudicate the claims of immigrants.”
The department has plenty of new money to work with, with Congress providing a $3.2 billion increase as part of the fiscal 2023 omnibus funding bill. Border Patrol just received a massive 17% spending boost, which includes appropriations for 300 new Border Patrol agents that the Biden administration had repeatedly stressed as necessary to handle the record-high numbers of migrants. If Border Patrol is unable to meet the hiring goal, it can use the funds on other efforts to boost morale. Customs and Border Protection saw its regular funding increase by 12%, though it also received a separate, one-time appropriation of $1.6 billion to address the uptick at the border. Immigration and Customs Enforcement similarly received a one-time boost of $340 million. None of the funds in those distinct appropriations, however, can be used to hire permanent federal employees.
Congress provided $133 million for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to ramp up hiring at the agency to address backlogs for asylum claims, work authorizations, naturalizations and other immigration benefit cases, though the Biden administration had sought an appropriation three times as large.
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