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The U.S. could be just hours away from another wave of mass migration if the Biden administration lifts Title 42, a provision border agents have relied on to quell the border crisis during the pandemic.
It comes as a new report shows more than 170,000 migrants are waiting on the Mexican-side of the U.S.-Mexico border to cross and claim asylum should the policy be lifted.
Estimates show many of these individuals are as little as hours away from the border – while others planning to migrate are within a few-days trip, an officials familiar with discussions told CNN.
It comes as reports emerged that Ukrainian refugees are being detained under the Title 42 expulsion provision.
DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said Thursday afternoon Border Patrol agents were reminded there are individualized exceptions to Title 42 that can be applied to Ukrainians arriving at the southern border.
The number of migrants waiting to cross, shared with Axios by sources with direct knowledge of discussions, has led to the creation of the Southwest Border Coordination Center (SBCC) to create an interagency response to the impending surge.
Department of Homeland Security (DHS) intelligence estimates 25,000 migrants are already waiting in Mexican shelters waiting for Title 42 to end so they can cross into the U.S.
Title 42, a policy put in place by former President Donald Trump to allow expulsions in the midst of the pandemic, has been used to rapidly remove more than 1 million migrants at the southern border.
It allows the U.S. to bypass asylum claims and instantly remove these individuals from the country after crossing the border illegally.
Title 42 wasn’t meant to be permanent, but has continued to be enforced and defended in court under Biden as the administration tries to quell the southern border crisis.
Recent reports reveal that the administration is leaning toward ending Title 42 entirely, after they were forced to end the practice for unaccompanied minors crossing the border.
The court order notes that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) ‘anticipates additional lifting of restrictions’ as DHS becomes increasingly able to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in its facilities.
Every 60 days, the CDC reassess Title 42 – and the deadline for the next renewal is in early April, meaning the provisions could end as early as next month.
A Thursday report claims intelligence officials are bracing for more than 170,000 migrants crossing into the U.S. once COVID-era Title 42 is lifted, which allows instant expulsion of asylum-seekers due to the ongoing public health emergency. Pictured: Migrants wait in Mexico for their court date for asylum claims
Ukrainian refugees and their Mexican relatives arrive at the Benito Juarez International Airport in Mexico City, Mexico on Wednesday, March 16, 2022 as people flee the region following Russia’s invasion
Ukrainian refugees arrive at the Benito Juarez International airport on Wednesday after being evacuated from Ukraine following the Russian invasion. Asylum-seekers are being turned away from the U.S. border due to Title 42
‘As it stands right now – there are no changes: Title 42 is still in effect and anyone attempting to enter the country unlawfully will be subject to border restrictions – including potentially expulsion,’ a White House official told Axios.
They added: ‘We continue to defer to the CDC on the use of Title 42 and how long it might remain in effect.’
DHS Deputy Secretary John Tien asked employees in a Wednesday email ‘to consider stepping forward to support the DHS Volunteer Force.’
The email, reviewed by Axios, seeks support from Customs and Border Protection (CBP), specifically in relation to helping with data entry – and cites the large number of migrants at the southern U.S. border.
Since Biden took office, CBP has encountered at least 2.25 million migrants at the southern border – and officials expect those numbers to climb due to seasonal trends and the expected impending end of Title 42.
In February alone, CBP encountered 164,973 migrants at the southern border – up more than 10,000 from January figures of 154,745. The highest peak in decades came in July 2021 with nearly 214,000 encounters.
Border patrol arrests also reached an all-time high of 1.7 million in FY2021. Officials project similar figures for FY2022 with the end of Title 42.
Democrats have been highly critical of Biden’s continued enforcement of Title 42 and Immigration advocates are outraged over low numbers for refugee admissions.
Meanwhile, Republicans have slammed the Biden administration for its ‘open border’ policies leading to overwhelmed officials and record numbers of crossings at the border, along with reports of a large number of illegal immigrants being released into the U.S.
The situation seems like a lose-lose of Biden.
Further complicating the matter is the war in Eastern Europe leading to hundreds of Ukrainians arriving at the U.S. southern border and being turned away due to title 42 restrictions.
Other reports show that these refugees seeking asylum are being detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Immigration advocates have been calling for an end to enforcing Title 42 – even though the U.S. is still in a state of emergency – and calls have increased this week as Ukrainians begin to arrive and request asylum.
It was revealed this week that journalists witnessed dozens of Ukrainian and Russian families gathering outside the U.S. southern border and families in Tijuana claim CBP agents are selective of who they let in.
Vicente Calderon, editor for Tijuanapress.com, said: ‘Even people with humanitarian parole, it would take a long time for them to get a waiver. Some are allowed to get in, but not others.’
Ukrainian refugees are arriving at the U.S. southern border seeking asylum but are being turned away due to Title 42. Pictured: a Ukrainian woman and her boyfriend wait for humanitarian visas outside the San Ysidro Port of Entry in Tijuana, Mexico on March 10
Since Biden has taken office, the crossing per-month has massively increased. In 2020, the last year of Donald Trump’s presidency, a total of 458,088 migrants were encountered at the border. In 2021, that number spiked to 1.73 million with Biden in the White House.
As the administration struggles to find ways to deter migration and stop the surge at the southern border, now Ukrainian refugees are seeking asylum in the U.S.
Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022, leading to a massive refugee crisis in Eastern Europe with millions fleeing the conflict. While many are going to neighboring countries like Poland, more and more are arriving in the U.S. now that Ukraine faces its 19th day of attack from Vladimir Putin.
Immigration lawyers in San Diego argue the Title 42 policy is no longer needed and is leading to inhumane treatment of migrants and asylum-seekers at the border as the administration claims it’s necessary to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The Biden administration already ended the policy for children crossing without their parents, but as restrictions in the U.S. ease, there are increased calls to ditch the policy altogether.
A Ukrainian family listen to an agent of the Mexican immigrant welfare agency Grupo Beta while waiting for a humanitarian visas outside the San Ysidro Port of Entry at the U.S.-Mexico border in Tijuana on Friday, March 11
‘This is actually an inhumane policy and people are calling to cancel it and it’s not safe for families who are fleeing their country and are trying to look for peace,’ Immigration Lawyer Jacob Sapochnick said.
Sapochnick, who has been helping Ukrainian families, says Border Patrol agents are taking advantage of Title 42 provisions and turning families away.
‘The moment they reach the U.S. soil and they say they are here for asylum, they can’t send them back. They have to actually process them and go through the critical interview,’ Sapochnick detailed.
‘However, they are just sending them back and they are not supposed to do that.’