Senior officials at the Department of Homeland Security have been planning to tell Mexico that a controversial Trump-era border policy enacted during the pandemic could end as early as April, which could lead to an increase in immigration at the border, according to documents obtained by BuzzFeed News ,resource crisis.
The existence of such a plan, revealed in a draft document, comes as the Biden administration addresses the impact of two federal court orders on border policy, Section 42, which has been condemned by Senate Democrats and immigration advocates , which they have long considered illegal.
Former President Donald Trump first cited Section 42 as a way to control the coronavirus by deporting migrants at the border and preventing them from entering the U.S. asylum system. Some migrants were quickly deported to Mexico, while others were flown back to their home countries. President Joe Biden has continued the policy during a court challenge, deporting border agents more than 1 million times in the process.
But two court rulings — including a judge’s order to continue sending immigrant children back to the border — and the already evolving federal response to the U.S. domestic pandemic could spell the end of the policy. A senior DHS official told BuzzFeed News that the agency has been planning to end Section 42. The draft document obtained by BuzzFeed News also mentions the department’s ongoing “contingency plan” to deal with the situation. On Wednesday, Reuters also reported that the government was “inclined” to end Article 42.
Meanwhile, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorcas is expected to meet with Mexican officials next week.
DHS officials specifically plan to stress to Mexico that if Section 42 no longer applies, the agency will need to reprocess migrants who cross the border without authorization through normal pre-COVID practices, which would allow them to seek asylum and protection within the United States. Before Article 42, migrants arrested at the border could apply for asylum, and their applications were assessed to determine whether they could remain in the country to continue their cases.
But a draft DHS document warned that these pre-pandemic practices could “severely strain” border resources and lead to a dire humanitarian situation in northern Mexico. Department officials also expressed concern about the “historically and abnormally high” number of migrants crossing the border without authorization.
The use of Title 42 gave the Biden administration more than a year to consider changes to border policy and the asylum system. However, it remains to be seen if there will be any major changes when Title 42 is gone. Administration officials have been keen to implement a plan to dramatically reshape how asylum seekers are handled to address a massive backlog in immigration courts that could cut wait times for some applicants by years. The final version of the plan, which has yet to be released, will shift the decision-making power of certain migrants encountered at the border for asylum from immigration judges to asylum officers.