(NewsNation) — Migrant crossings are expected to surge along the southwest border as the COVID-era policy Title 42 is set to end.
The policy was enacted under President Donald Trump at the start of the pandemic and continued under President Joe Biden. It allowed the government to turn away migrants at the border for public health reasons. As of Monday, daily migrant crossings along the southwest border were estimated at 5,000 to 8,000. The Department of Homeland Security is bracing for those numbers to double once Title 42 is lifted May 23.
“The federal government is planning for up to 18,000 illegal immigrants crossing per day,” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said.
That’s more than half a million migrants per month.
“It’ll produce a gusher far beyond the open border we already have,” Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said.
The Trump-era emergency health policy is set to expire, no longer allowing for the speedy expulsion of migrants — more than 1.7 million times since the pandemic’s onset in 2020.
Border agents worry about the policy’s looming end and are preparing for swaths of of the border to be unmanned as demand continues to soar, said Brandon Judd, president of the National Border Patrol Council.
“We’re going to lose complete control of the border once this takes place,” he said.
“We’ll end up processing, hospital watch, transport duty … detention security. All of those administrative duties, which do not require a law enforcement officer to do … we’re going to get pulled in to do,” Judd said.
Democratic Representative Henry Cuellar of Texas is against the expiration of Title 42.
“Remember in the old days it was Mexican single adults that would come in and work. Then you had family units. Now you’ve got people from over 55, 60 countries that are coming in because they understand that the border is open,” Cuellar said. “And I’ll tell you this one, the ones that are winning in this one are the criminal organizations. They charged from 6,000 to 15,000, depending on the circumstances, let’s say $8,000 average for an individual.”
A new government report shows that DHS reported more than 220,000 encounters with migrants along the southwest border in March. About 123,000 were expelled under Title 42.
“There will be more that will be arriving, whether by bus or plane, so that Washington is going to have to respond and deal with the same challenges that we’re dealing with,” Abbott said.
But Abborr’s plan to bus migrants to the front steps of the nation’s capital hasn’t generated the numbers the governor might have been seeking.
The first bus law week brought 24 people. The second carried 14 and the third bus had 30 migrants on board. A bus over the weekend carried fewer than 10 people.
All of those aboard took the trip voluntarily.
“These are all migrants who have been processed by CBP and are free to travel, so it’s nice the state of Texas is helping them get to their final destination as they await the outcome of their immigration proceedings,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said.
In preparation for Title 42’s end, DHS is deploying additional patrol agents, expanding capacity at holding sites and securing more buses and planes to transports migrants.