US prepares to boost immigration numbers after border controls end

After the expected end of COVID-19 restrictions next month, the Biden administration is preparing a strategy for tens of thousands of additional migrants arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border, seeking potential shelters, speeding up deportations and better processing of refugees abroad.

The government is expected to announce a new package of measures as early as this week, including an increase in the current low number of Latin Americans admitted through the U.S. refugee settlement program, three people familiar with the case told Reuters.

At the same time, U.S. officials are expanding migrant reception capacity at the border and testing expedited asylum screenings. The as-yet-unannounced option is to process the immigrants at Fort Bliss, a military base near El Paso, Texas, two U.S. officials and a third person familiar with the matter told Reuters.

White House spokesman Abdullah Hassan denied the site was being considered and the Pentagon said it had not received a request to use it for immigration processing.

Other moves could include agreements or understandings with regional governments to limit migration to the north and increase aid to migrants already in those countries, the person familiar with the matter said. Details were not immediately available.

The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and US State Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Biden’s plans are to address the surge in unauthorized immigration until Congress steps in at the last minute after Covid border restrictions in place since 2020 expire on May 11.

The broader COVID public health emergency would expire on that date, undermining the justification for the restrictions known as Title 42.

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A minor admission of refugees

Biden, a Democrat who announced his 2024 re-election campaign this week, has gradually tightened his approach to enforcement as he grapples with record numbers of migrants crossing the US-Mexico border. Republicans have accused Biden of abandoning the hardline policies of former Republican President Donald Trump, now the party’s front-runner.

The expansion of refugee treatment in Latin America comes as the Biden administration has not reinstated refugee admissions after being scaled back under Trump.

Biden earmarked 15,000 refugee spots for people from Latin America and the Caribbean in fiscal year 2022, which ended on Sept. 30, but only about 2,500 refugees have been granted admission.

The government picked up the pace in the first six months of the current fiscal year, allowing 2,300 people from the region, but falling short of the 15,000 limit.

The Biden administration’s latest border plan focuses on a soon-to-be-developed plan that would prevent most immigrants from crossing the border illegally if they have traveled through another country without seeking asylum or have no use for legal routes to the United States. In the states. For this rule to be an effective deterrent, U.S. officials must quickly detain and process people crossing the border for deportation.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Acting Commissioner Troy Miller told lawmakers last week that 10,000 immigrants a day could try to enter the U.S. illegally — more than double the daily average in March. Miller noted that there are currently an estimated 660,000 migrants in Mexico, citing United Nations statistics.

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CBP has the capacity to detain 6,000 immigrants at the U.S.-Mexico border and plans to add 2,500 more, Miller said, adding that the agency is testing its ability to quickly move immigrants across the border.

In 2022, border crossings hit an unprecedented high, with U.S. officials releasing thousands of migrants to border towns in Texas and Arizona and drawing criticism from Republican governors who moved migrants to Democratic cities in the north.

Fort Bliss, a military base in Texas, is currently home to 80 unaccompanied migrant children, after thousands were resettled in 2021, leading to reports of overcrowding, unsanitary conditions, tainted food and problems with depression.

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