Dec 13, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Biden braces for potentially 14,000 migrants a day

Migrants at the border

Hundreds of migrants wait to cross the border on the banks of the Rio Grande that divides Ciudad Juárez in Mexico and El Paso, Texas. Photo: Jose Zamora/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The possibility of 14,000 migrant crossings a day is pushing the Biden administration toward a new rule that would severely limit migrants' ability to qualify for asylum at the southern border, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: Officials are concerned that Border Patrol stations will face acute overcrowding and Department of Homeland Security resources will be overwhelmed when the pandemic-era Title 42 policy ends on Dec. 21, according to sources familiar with the plans.

Driving the news: Title 42, implemented during the Trump administration and extended by President Biden, allows for the rapid expulsion of migrants and asylum seekers at the border. It's scheduled to be lifted in less than two weeks, barring last-minute court intervention.

  • Encounters with migrants at the southern border are already at record levels, with the daily tally surpassing 9,000 three times in the first week and a half of December, the sources told Axios.
  • Officials now are preparing for the possibility of between 12,000 to 14,000 migrants attempting to cross every day.

Behind the scenes: A draft rule that would impose an asylum ban for roughly five months — initially — has been circulated internally.

  • It would apply to both migrant single adults and families who cross the border illegally — as well as those who arrive at legal ports of entry without already having proper authorization to enter.
  • A final decision on adopting the new rule hasn't been made.
  • A White House spokesperson referred Axios to a recent tweet by press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre that emphasized "no such decisions have been made" regarding policy changes.
  • “The Administration is committed to continuing to secure our borders while maintaining safe, orderly and humane processing of migrants. This will remain the case when Title 42 is lifted,” Jean-Pierre said.

The big picture: The consideration of a drastic move such as automatically rejecting people from asylum — similar to efforts under the Trump administration — is a sign of just how concerned top Biden officials are about the situation at the U.S.-Mexico border.

  • It also builds upon similar moves officials believe were critical in lowering the number of Ukrainians and Venezuelans attempting to cross the border.
  • The new strategy for Venezuelans and Ukrainians offers new — and legal — pathways for people fleeing their home countries, paired with stricter consequences for attempting to cross the border illegally.
  • NBC News reported Tuesday that the administration was also solidifying plans to cut the number of people who qualify for asylum while considering expanding pathways to parole for Nicaraguans, Haitians and Cubans.

Details: The new rule is still in the process of being finalized but would lead to people being considered ineligible for asylum (as was previously reported by Axios) unless they meet any of the following criteria:

  • Applied for legal pathways to the U.S. like refugee status or new parole processes, such as the one created for Venezuelans in October.
  • First sought protection in a country they had to travel through to get to the U.S.
  • Scheduled a meeting at a legal entry point ahead of time through an app run by border authorities — a brand new process.
  • Are facing extreme circumstances, such as a medical emergency or other immediate, severe harm.

The bottom line: Biden officials know they have both a political and potential humanitarian crisis on their hands. The very consideration of these rules is an indication of how seriously they are taking the problem.

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