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Biden pressed on immigration policy in preparation for a border crisis

After just one month in office, Biden is trying to explain to some Democrats that his Day One promises of a softer immigration system will take longer with the health and economic crises that have engulfed the United States.

The risks of an early political reaction for Biden are growing. On Wednesday, former President Donald Trump sent his deputies to the hill to lobby against Biden’s immigration repairs, and Trump plans to blow up those changes in a speech at the Conference on Conservative Political Action on Sunday.

An email from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, received by The Washington Post, shows that the administration has already entered a crisis regime at the southern border.

“We need to prepare for the border waves now,”

; Timothy Perry, the new ICE chief of staff, wrote in an email on February 12. “We need to start making changes immediately.”

The Biden administration is so worried that there will be no shelter for teenagers and children crossing the border without their parents that shelters have been allowed to buy plane tickets and cover other transportation costs for minors whose relatives already live in the United States. , according to an email from the Resettlement Office of the Ministry of Health and Human Services, which manages the shelters, which was received by The Post.

The HHS confirmed the policy change late Wednesday.

The White House has not yet announced a nominee for director of ICE or commissioner for customs and border protection, the two most important jobs for immigration.

Building pressure on the border did not stop Biden from changing Trump’s policy. On Wednesday, the White House dropped an order from Trump that closed the door to visa holders and other legal immigrants on the grounds that their arrival would hurt the U.S. labor market under pressure from the coronavirus pandemic.

The new administration made a brief breakthrough this week when advocates for immigrants agreed to give way to a few adjudicating cases involving migrant families and unaccompanied children, giving administration for another 30 days to introduce new policies.

“The word I would preach here is patience,” J. said. Kevin Appleby, a board member of the Hope Border Institute, an organization that helps immigrants in El Paso. “Everyone expects automatic results and automatic change. But it will take time to reverse what Trump did. “

Biden’s victory in the 2020 election drew applause from miserable migrants freezing refugee camps in Mexico, and some rushed across a bridge in the border town of El Paso while chanting his name. Unlike Trump – whose harsh talk of repression against immigration led to record low border crossings during his first months in power – Biden arrived when their numbers were growing.

And as the Trump administration issued a public health order effectively blocking migrants from crossing into the United States, Biden inherited infrastructure prepared to deal with the large influx in the middle of the pandemic. Federal agents have detained more than 70,000 migrants a month for each of the last four months, the most for at least 10 years.

Last year, a federal lawsuit highlighted how quickly the border situation could change.

In November, U.S. District Judge Emmett G. Sullivan in the District of Columbia blocked the previous administration from immediately expelling children and teenagers who arrived at the southern border without their parents. Three of Trump’s Appellate Court of Appeals judges at DC Circuit overturned it in January, but the decision backed Biden from an awkward angle.

Forced to make the choice, Biden said he would not resume the expulsion of minors. Since then, the number of juveniles in federal custody has more than tripled to 7,000, prompting officials to reopen a Texas overflow shelter to accommodate them – although the shelter is not state-licensed as required – while officials can to accommodate them with a parent or guardian in the United States.

Some Democrats condemned the move, calling for the abolition of ICE and HHS-like shelters.

“This is not right, it has never been right, it will never be right – regardless of the administration or the party,” tweeted Alexandria Ocasio-Cortes (DN.Y.).

“We should not go in that direction again,” said Julian Castro, a former presidential candidate and housing secretary during the Obama administration.

But the influx of migrant families – who are much more than unaccompanied children – could create an even more dire situation for the Home Office, as they are difficult to accommodate during immigration processing and their cases clog immigration courts. DHS reached a “breaking point” in fiscal 2019 – when more than 500,000 migrant families performed at the southern border, a record high. Unaccompanied minors also set a record this year, numbering 80,000.

Although immigration agents are rapidly deporting single adults from the border, the latest DHS statistics show that families and children admitted to the United States are virtually guaranteed to stay for at least a few years.

Of the more than 1 million migrants who arrived as part of family groups between 2014 and mid-2020, only 6% returned home, while 4.7% received asylum or some form of legal status, according to DHS . Of the remaining 89 percent whose lawsuits remain unresolved, 67 percent have had cases pending in U.S. courts, while 20 percent have received deportation orders or a proposal to leave voluntarily, statistics show.

Behind the scenes, the administration has made it clear in emails and court records that it is preparing for a much wider influx of border.

The tone of the February 12 email Perry sent to senior ICE officials was urgent.

DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told senior officials “to prepare for border waves now,” Perry wrote. “We need to start making changes immediately. We must prioritize action for cost reasons; do what is necessary and then the department will work on funding. “

According to Perry’s e-mail, first reported by the Washington Times, Mayorkas wants to “reduce pressure on the border” by getting ICE to help transport migrants north so they can be processed and released.

Officials are also negotiating with immigrant lawyers to stop lawsuits that officials fear could trigger a new border boom.

The talks put Biden administration officials in the awkward position of having to defend Trump’s order under Title 42 of the Public Health Code, which allows them to expel migrants from the southern border. In recent lawsuits, they have called the expulsion body a critical tool to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Their concerns persuaded the ACLU to agree to a one-month extension in the fight to stop the expulsion of migrant families.

Biden administration officials also persuaded attorneys representing minors to give them a federal decree of consent known as the Flores Settlement Agreement a month before demanding a new decision in the case.

White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Wednesday that officials are working quickly to keep minors away from the border and treat them humanely. But she said the administration could not legally release unaccompanied adult children without quotes, a past practice that has led to abuse.

She said children are being moved from narrow border stations – where some have stayed longer than the typical 72 hours in recent days due to a major winter storm in Texas – to HHS-run shelters.

“This is a difficult situation and a difficult choice,” she said. “That’s the choice we made.”

The influx of borders could hamper the Biden administration’s efforts to pass this year’s immigration bill, which focuses on legalizing 11 million undocumented immigrants – many of whom have lived in the United States for years, even decades.

Stephen Miller, the architect of Trump’s immigration strategy – informed the GOP MPs this week about the immigration changes in the Biden administration and called them to continue to address the issue, which he says could help Republicans in next year’s by-elections. Miller told them that the Democrats’ interim defeats in 2010 were the result of President Barack Obama’s focus on health care reform instead of economic reform. questions.

“If you think Obama’s focus on health care during the recession is a mismatch of priorities, it’s nothing compared to opening America’s borders and stopping law enforcement during an economically devastating pandemic,” Miller said in an interview. “From a purely political point of view, this is a recipe for Democrats to have historical strikes in the interim, if we can make it even a bigger problem or bigger than Obamacare.”

Cecilia Munoz, a former domestic policy adviser to Obama, said Biden was facing a “minefield” in immigration policy, but still had to find a solution.

“It’s absolutely worth the fight,” she said. “The country is really tired of a system that doesn’t work. I believe that most Americans want to do this and want to do it behind us. “

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