Title 42: Agents prepare for migrant surge as deadline looms

  • Title 42, rule that blocked 2.9 million border crossings, will end May 11
  • Officials have freed up bed space and added tents to prepare for a surge
  • Agents have mixed reactions: Prepare for the worst and hope for the best

Immigrants seeking asylum turn themselves in to U.S. Border Patrol agents after wading across the Rio Grande to El Paso, Texas on December 18, 2022 from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

(NewsNation) — A controversial border policy that has been tied up in a legal battle in the nation’s high court is ending, and lawmakers and authorities are laying the framework on how to handle an expected surge of migrants in three weeks.

Title 42, the Trump-era policy that allows border officials to turn away migrants at the southern border, has been used 2.9 million times since it was implemented in 2020. It’s set to end on May 11.

The policy, as written, states that it may be lifted when the “public health emergency” is officially over or, “The CDC Director determines that the danger of further introduction of COVID-19 into the United States has declined such that continuation of the order is no longer necessary to protect public health.”

The Biden administration temporarily lifted Title 42 through a CDC order, which led to a lawsuit from Republican states; however, via public health emergency declaration expiration it will end on May 11

NewsNation has exclusively learned the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is bracing for a potential surge of thousands of migrants.

As of last week, there are more than 25,000 people in ICE custody, 1,000 fewer than the week prior, according to Trac Immigration.

Victor Avila, a retired ICE special agent, said agents are already implementing changes in the El Paso, Texas sector.

“I spoke to agents in the El Paso area, and that’s exactly right. They’re not having interviews, they’re not having the ability to vet them. The agent even says, ‘Wait a minute, I need to make some phone calls on this individual. I need to make some additional database checks,’ Avila explained. “But I can’t because there are 1,000 people behind that person. Plus, the administration has told them no, move them along, move them quickly.”

Multiple sources confirmed to NewsNation that sectors are preparing for a surge by putting up additional processing facilities. In the Yuma, Arizona, sector, tents are being put up, and space is being cleared for staging areas in the Eagle Pass area of the Del Rio Sector. 

In the first five months of the fiscal year, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers and Border Patrol agents encountered more than 1.5 million people nationwide.

CBP has returned less than half a million people under Title 42, with 444,146 migrants removed without process. Last year, it was used to expel more than 1.1 million migrants who crossed into the U.S. illegally.

CBP confirmed to NewsNation that it’s no longer designating migrants as special interest and that just being from a special interest country is not grounds for deportation.

Meanwhile, agents have had mixed reactions to Title 42 ending, as they prep for the worst and hope for the best. Many anticipate a huge surge but hope it is only temporary and things get back to the levels currently seen, but the levels the U.S. is seeing are unprecedented.

“I think we’re screwed and they’re going to use the parole and NTA/OR pathways. The legit options are going back to consequences, but they’re not gonna do that. These processing centers are just going to be used to shuffle people through faster,” one agent said.

“Honestly, pretty indifferent. I’ll just do what I have to do like always… I’m going to have to remember how to process,” another agent told NewsNation.

All of this comes after the Biden administration ended the U.S. national emergency to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic immediately on April 9, rather than waiting until May 11, further complicating the immigration matter.


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