EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – El Paso’s new Border Patrol sector chief says the agency has plans to deal with a potential migrant surge when Title 42 expulsions end on May 11.
“This isn’t the first time that we have experienced high flows of migration through the sector, and we continue to plan and, yes, I think we are ready for this job,” Chief Anthony “Scott” Good said.
Border agents since March 2020 have been using the Title 42 public health law to quickly expel ineligible migrants. Foreign nationals without legal cause to remain in the U.S. will still be removed through the lengthier Title 8 process. But federal officials say third parties are trying to make people believe no one will be removed after May 11 regardless of how they come into the country.
“There is a lot of misinformation from smugglers and social media that everyone is amenable to asylum and that’s not the case,” Good told Border Report. “Being from a poor or (dangerous) country doesn’t mean you are amenable to credible fear.”
Still, public officials and security experts are expecting large numbers of people to come across the border starting on May 11 and that could strain federal and local resources.
Good said Department of Homeland Security agencies like the Border Patrol are communicating with stakeholders like the city and county of El Paso to prepare for such a surge. Some plans are already in place while others are in the works, Good said. They include:
- Building a third large migrant processing center in Northeast El Paso by June.
- Contracting with data-entry companies, food service vendors and incorporating volunteers to provide childcare at the centers to spell border agents from those duties and keep them on the field.
- Bring in U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) adjudicators to make credible fear determinations for migrants at the processing centers.
- Utilizing videoconferencing with coordinators in Border Patrol Northern Border sectors to interview migrants in custody. Two-hundred civilian in-person processing coordinators have already been incorporated to the El Paso sector.
- Ramp up Title 8 expedited removals of migrants who cannot legally justify their permanence in the United States, including those who come between ports of entry trying to avoid apprehension.
- Increase repatriation flights to home countries – a flight carrying 139 migrants left El Paso this week and landed in Guatemala City.
The Border Patrol is relying on civilian processing coordinators to keep things flowing at processing centers that tend to quickly become overcrowded when major surges take place. Such was the case last October, last December and just a few days ago when about 5,000 asylum seekers came over from Juarez in less than a week.
“Processing coordinators […] are working specifically processing paperwork required for all kinds of actions, whether someone is going to be removed from the U.S. as well as when we have large migrant populations in holding that we need to move around,” Good said. “It takes time to do that kind of work; every minute that we spend doing that takes my agents out of the field.”
Good also emphasized that, while Title 8 processing may take longer than a Title 42 expulsion, the consequences are serious. “You come through illegally and there will be consequences. That could be prosecution, that could be jail time,” he said. “The expedited removals, a lot of them will come with the inability to come through legally in the future, five years for the first offense.”
New processing center will facilitate legal services for migrants
Migrant advocates have long pointed out that a migrant’s chances of obtaining asylum in the United States increase significantly if he or she has access to legal counsel.
The new facility planned on a 28-acre tract next to the soft-sided processing center along U.S. 54 on the way to Chaparral, New Mexico, will include designated areas for migrants to confer remotely with legal advisers.
“When we move into credible fear claims, USCIS is going to be assigning us several of their personnel and will be providing booths where migrants can talk to their legal representation or do virtual processing with privacy,” Good said. “We will have coordination with asylum officers who can adjudicate those claims right there. It may be about an eight-day process from start to finish where we can get that adjudication for their claim.”
According to the National Immigrant Justice Center, only 37 percent of all immigrants and 14 percent of detained immigrants go to court with lawyers on their side.