The Department of Homeland Security believes that nearly a million people will attempt to cross the United States-Mexico border in the coming months as part of a wave of “family groups” seeking asylum in the United States — a new problem that could constitute the “second wave” of the current migrant crisis.
The Biden administration is already struggling to handle an ever-increasing number of child migrants, and it is believed the United States government is now holding around 15,000 unaccompanied minors, captured trying to cross the U.S.’s southern border, in detention facilities across California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. The numbers are so great that the Biden administration is calling on volunteers from DHS to help staff the facilities and, over the weekend, reportedly waived a requirement mandating that child migrant caregivers pass an FBI background check so that new Health and Human Services (HHS) and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) facilities can open quickly.
But the “child migrant crisis” may just be the first immigration crisis in 2021. The Washington Post reports that DHS now expects a second wave of “migrant families” — and it may mean that Customs and Border Protection could be processing nearly a million newcomers to the United States.
“DHS expects approximately 500,000 to 800,000 migrants to arrive as part of a family group during the 2021 fiscal year that ends in September, a quantity that would equal or exceed the record numbers who entered in 2019,” the outlet added, based on government data. “Officials are racing to find facilities to house these families ahead of their release, along with additional staff to process an increase in humanitarian and asylum claims.”
Families, per an Obama administration-era court order, cannot be separated for more than a specific amount of time and must be processed together. Since the Biden administration has lifted the Trump administration’s “Remain in Mexico” policy for new migrants, it’s likely families presenting at the border would be released into the United States pending a hearing on asylum claims — a policy that could be ripe for abuse.
The Biden administration initially said that it would turn back migrant families under a Trump-era policy barring illegal immigrant adults from entering the country because of concerns they may be carrying the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 but, the Washington Post notes, those “expulsions” have slowed in recent weeks.
“Although the Biden administration says its policy is to ‘expel’ families to Mexico under a pandemic health order, the most recent CBP data shows that only about 10 to 20 percent are being turned back. The rest are typically released into the United States with a notice to appear in court, even though Biden told reporters last week that the families ‘should all be going back.'”
As word gets out about a lack of border security, DHS anticipates a spike in illegal immigration.
Instead of taking a hard line on migrant families, though, the Biden administration appears to be encouraging agencies handling the issue to expand their capacity to handle family groups.
“Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced this month that it will expand its capacity to hold families near the U.S.-Mexico border to more than 3,700 beds in coming weeks, including 2,500 beds at a pair of existing family residential centers in South Texas, records show. ICE has also converted its two largest family detention sites into rapid-processing hubs to facilitate the release of parents with children within 72 hours,” The Post noted.
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