(WASHINGTON) — Amid concerns over a looming immigration surge at the southern U.S. border, Biden administration officials have revealed what they described as a “comprehensive, multi-agency, multi-country plan” to “humanely manage the border” when a Trump-era policy known as Title 42 lifts this week.
The officials acknowledged that the policy placed “significant conditions” on the existing rule.
Under the finalized policy, migrants will be required to either first apply for protection in a third country or apply for admission via the CBP One App while also presenting at a legitimate port of entry to be considered, one official confirmed. Those who don’t follow those steps, the official said, would be quickly removed.
“We are also significantly expanding, starting on Thursday, our use of expedited removal at the border. This is our traditional title eight consequences for individuals who are encountered between ports of entry,” the official said. “We have spent much of the last year building out additional interview rooms and adding phone lines to both CBP and ICE facilities in order to facilitate the interviews that are required under the expedited removal process for asylum officers. We have retained and will be ready to deploy up to 1,000 asylum officers to handle credible fear interviews at the border again starting this Thursday.”
The official did not specifically say how the finalized rule differed exactly from the proposed policy previously revealed.
“I can’t talk about the specifics of changes that were made. I will note that they were not major changes, we did receive many thousands of comments, we worked feverishly to address and respond to it and all of that will be available for public inspection early tomorrow,” they advised.
Officials said that the finalized version of the sweeping restriction on asylum, first proposed by the Biden administration earlier this year, would be published Thursday morning, acknowledging that the policy — which has drawn considerable criticism from the president’s own party — placed “significant conditions” on the existing rule.
The change is almost certain to be challenged in court.
Following up on the announcement that the administration would stand up regional processing centers across Latin America last month, one official shed additional light on the initiative, saying they would eventually open more than 100.
“In the coming days, we will launch an online platform for individuals to make appointments to be able to visit a center near them and in many cases within their home countries,” they said, adding that over 140 federal personnel as well as NGO staffers would “be deployed to support the activities at the centers.”
It is currently unclear how long turnaround times for appointments might be or how long the whole process might take.
“We’re continuing to work those details but I’m quite certain that we will be have additional updates in the next several days,” the official said.
When asked whether the efficacy of the centers might be too little or too late to assuage the wave from the end of Title 42, the official pledged more would be done to facilitate legal migration.
“This will not be the last and certainly was not the first legal pathway made available in an innovative fashion by the administration to deal with this unprecedented challenge,” they said.
Stating that they had been preparing for the end of Title 42 for over a year, the officials sought to showcase that readiness with statistics.
“We have more than 24,000 law enforcement personnel deployed to the border, along with another 1,100 new border patrol processing coordinators, which has doubled the number we had last year,” one official said. “Thousands of contracts personnel have been hired over the last year and a half. And we have 400 volunteers who have put their hands up to help our frontline personnel manage what will be challenging conditions in some of our facilities.”
They added that the administration had also deployed over 1,400 medical support staff to the border, increased its capacity to hold individuals at border patrol facilities by more than 7,000 beds over the last two years, and increased repatriation flight capacity by more than 70% over the last year.
But despite it all, the administration officials — as the president himself did earlier — sought to set expectations low, saying they were bracing for a “rough couple of weeks.”
Here, the executive branch officials point the finger squarely at Congress, namely Republicans, for proving only “limited resources to address the moment at hand.”
“We have asked Congress for an updated framework. We have asked Congress as well for additional resources. Specifically, we asked Congress for $4.9 billion for border security and management. And Congress only gave us half of that,” one said.
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