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Migrant Justice: DHS outlines plan to secure border after Title 42 is lifted

By Oriana Gonzalez, Alayna Treene

The Department of Homeland Security on Tuesday outlined its plan to secure the southern border for when the pandemic-era public health policy Title 42 is lifted on May 23.

Driving the news: A federal court on Monday temporarily blocked the Biden administration from removing the order after several states filed a lawsuit to keep it in place, arguing that revoking it would "result in an unprecedented crisis at the United States southern border."

  • Title 42 was first issued in March 2020, and it allows border authorities to turn migrants attempting to enter the U.S. back to Mexico or their home countries without the chance to seek asylum due to the public health crisis.

State of play: Senior administration officials told reporters that "if and when the court actually issues the [temporary restraining order]," DHS will comply with it, adding that "we are really disagreeing with the basic premise."

  • Officials did not specify what exactly will happen to the plan once the order is issued or whether the administration plans to appeal it.
  • DHS did not immediately respond to Axios' request for comment.

The big picture: Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas said in a memo that, once Title 42 is removed, the administration expects that "migration levels will increase, as smugglers will seek to take advantage of and profit from vulnerable migrants."

  • This plan is exactly what lawmakers criticizing the administration’s plans to end Title 42 have been asking for.

Catch up fast: Earlier this month, a bipartisan group of senators introduced a bill that would prevent the Biden administration from lifting the order without a detailed plan in place to stop an expected surge of migrants at the border.

  • Multiple lawmakers in both parties have since joined them in calling on DHS to outline their plan to secure the border.

Details: Under the new plan, DHS vows to increase resources, including personnel, transportation, medical support and facilities to support border operations. That includes an increase of over 600 law enforcement personnel and agents from other government agencies to assist U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

  • By May 23, DHS will be able to hold 18,000 noncitizens in CBP custody, up from 13,000 at the beginning of 2021, according to Mayorkas' memo.
  • DHS is also planning to increase CBP processing efficiency and "our ability to mitigate overcrowding at border patrol stations and alleviate the burden surrounding border communities," per senior administration officials.
  • The department will also administer consequences for "unlawful entry, including removal, detention, and prosecution." Officials said this would also include the use of expedited removal, detaining single adults "when appropriate" and accelerating asylum adjudications "in order to more quickly process and remove from the U.S. those who do not qualify for relief."
  • DHS' plan will also focus on "bolstering" the capacity of non-governmental organizations to receive migrants after they have been processed by CBP while they are waiting the results of their immigration removal proceedings, "which ... everybody knows can take many years," senior administration officials said.
  • The administration plans to work to target and disrupt "transnational criminal organizations and smugglers." The federal government has established a "new intelligence unit to coordinate and strengthen the capability for early warning of migrant movements," per the DHS' memo.
  • Finally, DHS will work with the State Department and partner governments to "create a more cohesive and comprehensive approach to managing migratory flows across the region."

What they're saying: The memo "details those efforts to ensure that we have an orderly, secure and well-managed border while continuing to treat people fairly and humanely," senior administration officials said.

  • The officials noted that DHS has been "actively" planning for the end of Title 42 ever since it was issued two years ago