Editor’s Note: Shortly after this story was published, United States District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan temporarily stayed his order at the request of the Biden Administration for a period of five weeks “with great reluctance.”
ORIGINAL STORY BELOW
EAGLE PASS, Texas — A source within Customs and Border Protection says an announcement was sent to Border Patrol ordering them to immediately discontinue using Title 42 authority to expel applicable migrants from the United States on Tuesday. The source, not authorized to speak to the media, says “the nightmare is just beginning for us — there is no ‘Plan B’.”
The operating instruction to Border Patrol comes after a court ruling was issued on Tuesday ordering a halt to the use of Title 42 to expel certain migrant cohorts. The ruling was issued by United States District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan of the District of Columbia.
The court order will effectively require hundreds of migrants currently detained for removal under Title 42 to be re-examined and re-processed under the legacy Title 8 asylum process. The source says processing migrants under the previous and inefficient asylum pathway will likely result in severe overcrowding at Border Patrol processing facilities. Most will be released into the United States to pursue asylum claims.
It takes less than 15 minutes to process migrants and return them to Mexico and other countries under Title 42, the source explains. Under Title 8, the process more paperwork time and a credible fear hearing with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
The source says the processing facility in Eagle Pass, where more than one thousand migrants are apprehended daily, averages more than 2,000 migrants in a space designed to hold half as many. Title 42 allowed the Border Patrol to return citizens of Mexico and many from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. The source says the authority has also been utilized to expel Haitian migrants to their home country through ICE flights referred to as “delayed Title 42.”
The source says the authority has kept Haitian migrants at bay and reduced the likelihood of a repeat of the mass migration event in Del Rio in September 2021. That incident saw more than 30,000 Haitian migrants enter the United States near the Del Rio International Bridge and set up a hastily constructed outdoor encampment.
As recently as September, a CNN report estimated more than 10,000 migrants were sheltered in Reynosa, Tamaulipas, opposite McAllen, Texas. Those migrants have been waiting out the enforcement of Title 42. According to the report, many of those were Haitians.
In mid-October, the Biden Administration added Venezuelan migrants to the ranks of those subject to expulsion under the Title 42. According to CBP, nearly 6,000 Venezuelans were expelled to Mexico in October. The source says those Venezuelans are now likely to make quick returns.
Currently, there are more than 1,000 Venezuelan nationals staging in a makeshift camp in Juarez, across the border from El Paso, Texas. A recent report describes how the migrants at the camp were waiting for a change in policy to re-enter. The source says Tuesday’s court decision is the opportunity they have been waiting for and expects the large group to rush the border.
The source also expects the cancellation of Title 42 to impact the agency’s ability to fully staff and patrol areas of the border. The increase in case processing requirements will likely lead to further reductions of field patrols from already historic lows, according to the source.
Another added burden of the ruling will focus on immigration courts. There is currently a backlog of nearly 2 million immigration cases before administrative judges as of the end of Fiscal Year 2022. According to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), a Syracuse University research tool, more than 800,000 immigration cases were added to the backlog in FY22.
In FY22, more than 1,100,000 migrants were expelled under the emergency COVID-19 authority. Many of those would have otherwise been allowed to pursue asylum claims and add to the backlog.
Randy Clark is a 32-year veteran of the United States Border Patrol. Prior to his retirement, he served as the Division Chief for Law Enforcement Operations, directing operations for nine Border Patrol Stations within the Del Rio, Texas, Sector. Follow him on Twitter @RandyClarkBBTX.