(NewsNation) — Authorities are preparing for an anticipated increase in migrants crossing the border from Mexico into the U.S., Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said this week, just days before a public health order is set to end after being used to turn people away nearly 2 million times without a chance to seek asylum.
The Biden administration has sent more personnel and equipment and erected temporary holding facilities to process migrants to prepare for the end of the pandemic-era rule on Monday. Title 42 authority, named for a 1944 public health law, forbids migrants from seeking asylum under U.S. law and international treaty on grounds of preventing the spread of COVID-19.
A federal judge may order that pandemic-related asylum limits continue. Homeland Security has said it will prepare for as many as 18,000 daily crossings, compared with a daily average of about 7,800 in April, though Mayorkas emphasized that those are not projections.
Former consultant for the Department of Homeland Security, Mustafa Tameez, says the government is in a precarious situation.
“Anytime something like this happens, a surge becomes imminent. So we’re likely to see that surge, but the administration is somewhat trapped,” Tameez said. “On the one hand, they have to lift this because the CDC guidelines are basically that COVID restrictions are being taken away from travel and other things, why not this? So they don’t take away, they have a lawsuit. If they do take away the Title 42, they have a lawsuit. In immigration and COVID policies, there are no easy answers.”
Customs and Border Protection officials stopped migrants 234,088 times on the Mexican border in April, one of the highest in decades and a 5.8% increase from 221,303 in March, according to figures released this week.
While the number of migrant encounters has risen sharply during the pandemic, the number of individuals encountered is considerably lower. Many migrants are repeat crossers because there are no legal consequences of being expelled under Title 42 authority. In April, about 28% were encountered at least once in the previous year. According to Border Patrol, 60% of the crossers came from Mexico, 15% came from Guatemala and 14% came from Honduras.
U.S. authorities applied Title 42 in about four out of every 10 encounters. The rest were subject to immigration laws, which include a right to seek asylum.
The administration said in a court filing earlier this week that about 91,000 migrants were paroled into the U.S., including people permitted to make asylum claims.
Cubans continued crossing in large numbers, aided by eased travel restrictions to Nicaragua that allow them to fly from the Caribbean island nation to Central America and travel by land to the U.S. border. They were stopped 35,079 times in April, up 8.3% from 32,402 times in March and a tenfold increase from April 2020.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.