Biden administration officials Tuesday described in detail their plans for coping with an upsurge in illegal border crossings when pandemic-era emergency restrictions expire May 23. They pledged to boost criminal prosecutions and make aggressive use of fast-track deportations, reports the Washington Post. The White House and the Department of Homeland Security have been under fire from Republicans and some Democrats after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced April 1 that the public health order known as Title 42 was no longer needed. Authorities have used Title 42 more than two million times since March 2020 to rapidly turn back or “expel” migrants without giving them a chance to apply for asylum. “When the Title 42 public health order is lifted, we anticipate migration levels will increase, as smugglers will seek to take advantage of and profit from vulnerable migrants,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas wrote in outlining the department’s six-point plan.
Central to the administration’s preparations is an increase in temporary detention capacity along the border. Officials say they are planning to operate 10 “soft-sided” tent facilities that will boost holding capacity from 13,000 to 18,000 beds. The number of migrants in Border Patrol custody has exceeded 13,000, so the additional space afforded by temporary facilities may be quickly filled if border crossings jump again next month. Biden officials said their plan will restore access for migrants who are facing persecution while leveraging fast-track procedures to deport those who don’t qualify for U.S. protection. They plan to double transportation capacity and streamline operations using “Enhanced Central Processing Centers” where multiple federal agencies will work in better coordination. Authorities will hold single adult migrants in immigration detention “when appropriate.” Biden officials said they do not plan to reopen detention centers for families used by previous administrations.