May 25, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Tens of thousands of migrants waiting on U.S. doorstep

Immigrants wait to board a U.S. Border Patrol bus to be taken for processing after crossing the border from Mexico
Immigrants wait to board a U.S. Border Patrol bus after crossing the border from Mexico. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

As many as 50,000 migrants are waiting in Mexican shelters for a chance to cross the border, hoping to run out the clock on Title 42, the COVID-era rule limiting entry to the U.S., according to internal documents reviewed by Axios.

Why it matters: That's double the estimate from back in March, when Axios first reported on the government's preparations for a "mass migration event."

  • The administration's internal data now counts about 8,000 people attempting to cross the southwest border each day — an enormous number.
  • It reflects growing numbers of migrants from Cuba, Colombia, Haiti and Peru as well as traditional centers of Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Mexico.
  • Documents show Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) releasing roughly 1,200 migrant adults and 1,300 family members into the U.S. every day.

The big picture: A judge intervened last week to block the Biden administration's plans to end Title 42, which allows the rapid expulsion of asylum seekers.

  • But tens of thousands of migrants already are poised along the border, with many expected to attempt to cross despite the May 20 ruling.

Driving the news: The documents were discussed in a high-level, interagency meeting which took place on Friday before the Title 42 ruling was issued, according to two sources familiar with the details.

  • They show Department of Homeland Security intelligence tracking between 40,000 and 50,000 migrants now waiting in Mexican shelters to cross. That includes more than 10,000 Haitians.

What they're saying: "DHS uses a variety of intelligence and reports to plan for outcomes at our border," a DHS spokesperson told Axios in a statement, adding projections are not fixed "due to the complex and fluid nature of migration."

  • The spokesperson emphasized Title 42 continues to be used for adults and families and the agency "continues to execute its comprehensive, whole-of-government plan to manage increases in the number of migrants encountered at our border, as outlined by Secretary Mayorkas in an April 26 memo."

In a video published Tuesday, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said that "the U.S. Border Patrol already is managing numbers at historic levels due to large movements of people fleeing violence, corruption, poverty, climate change and other hardships."

  • He said that "numbers could rise further from confusion over recent court orders and as smugglers continue to peddle misinformation to make a profit."
  • One senior DHS official criticized the fixation on Title 42, telling Axios, "We're at surge levels now."

What we're hearing: Border Patrol recently has had to release dozens of migrants directly into El Paso communities as non-governmental organizations who typically take in migrants have been at capacity, according to one of the documents viewed by Axios.

  • Recent reports show shelters on both sides of the border reaching capacity, in locations including Ciudad Juarez, Mexico and El Paso, Texas.
  • Some migrants have waited for months and even taken up jobs in Mexico while waiting for access to the U.S. asylum system, as the New York Time's Miriam Jordan reported.
  • DHS officials are concerned about having enough funds to handle the number of people they are expecting to attempt to cross, and have been asking the White House for additional resources, NBC News reported.

The bottom line: The border remains a massive political liability for Democrats and President Biden and an issue that has no simple solutions.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with a statement from a DHS spokesperson.

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