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‘Current capabilities cannot forecast migrant surges’ after Title 42, DHS officials say

The change comes as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention withdraw their recommendation to DHS to carry out such removals, under the authority of U.S. Health Code Title 42.

By Pablo De La Rosa, Texas Tribune

Officials with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said in a new public report that it’s not possible to predict the number of migrants who may appear at the border after Title 42 expires.

“Current intelligence capabilities… cannot accurately forecast the timing, location, or composition of migrant surges with sufficient lead time to inform resource allocation decisions along the Southwest Border,” said DHS in the report.

The “Southwest Border Strategic Concept of Operations” report released by the Southwest Border Coordination Center of DHS this week outlines the agency’s emergency strategies for a number of scenarios that may occur after May 23. That is the last day that immigration enforcement agencies will expeditiously remove migrants who seek asylum at border land ports. Instead, asylum cases will be processed.

The change comes as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention withdraw their recommendation to DHS to carry out such removals, under the authority of U.S. Health Code Title 42.

“CDC considered multiple factors in its public health assessment and finds that, at this time, the available COVID-19 mitigation tools, as well as the fact that 97% of the U.S. population lives in a county identified as having “low” COVID-19 Community Level, will sufficiently mitigate the COVID-19 risk for U.S. communities and make (Title 42) no longer necessary,” said the CDC in a release on Friday.

Because those who seek asylum legally will now receive due process, many have expressed worry that the end of Title 42 will mean a dramatic increase of migrants at U.S. land ports after May 23. Some media outlets and politicians have commonly cited over the past few days that “18,000 migrants per day” are expected by DHS.

“Once (Title 42) is lifted, DHS anticipates a significant increase in migration and enforcement encounters,” said DHS in the report.

Although DHS does expect to see an increase, it makes clear that the numbers provided are generated projections that are used as “planning assumptions” to generate the requirements for dealing with each of the possible scenarios.

“The DHS Office of Immigration Statistics (OIS) produced projections for post-Title 42 Southwest Border encounters describing low, medium high, or very high encounter scenarios,” said DHS in the report. “These scenarios underpin planning assumptions that generate requirements which in turn drive operational execution. Based on these projections the SBCC is currently planning for 6,000, 12,000(high) and 18,000 (very high) encounters per day.”

In February of this year, 91,513 individuals who legally sought asylum at U.S. land ports were expelled by CBP under the authority of Title 42. This number represents 3,268 daily expulsions along the entire U.S. border in that period. In that same period, an additional 68,888 undocumented migrants were apprehended by CBP between land ports.

The emergency management strategies outlined in the recent DHS report are a result of  an executive order put into place by the Biden Administration in February of last year, and has been the subject of numerous public  progress briefings over the past year by Ur M. Jaddou, the director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Title 42 expulsions of migrants seeking asylum are expected to continue through May. The end of Title 42 expulsions will not increase the number of migrants who are granted asylum in the U.S. as a result of legal process.