DHS concerned about potential border surge if COVID-19 restriction is partially lifted: report

DHS concerned about potential border surge if COVID-19 restriction is partially lifted: report
© Greg Nash

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is reportedly concerned about a potential increase in migrants trying to enter the U.S. if COVID-19 restrictions are partially lifted on Thursday.

NBC News reported on Thursday that Secretary Alejandro MayorkasAlejandro MayorkasJohns Hopkins to launch degree program in cybersecurity and policy The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Altria - New front in mandate wars; debt bill heads to Biden DHS to end workplace raids, shift focus to employers over undocumented workers MORE, during a phone call with senior DHS officials this week, asked if the department was ready for a potential surge of migrants attempting to cross the border in October, according to two DHS officials familiar with the conversation.

Personnel at the department is reportedly concerned about a possible influx of migrants if Title 42 — the policy the Biden administration has used amid the pandemic to return border crossers without giving them an opportunity to apply for asylum — is lifted, according to the DHS officials.

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Federal District Judge Emmet Sullivan earlier this month ordered that the Biden administration stop using Title 42 to drive out families with children who cross the U.S.-Mexico border.

The ruling was handed down after families filed a class-action lawsuit arguing that the policy, which was crafted under the Trump administration, wrongly barred them from seeking humanitarian protections.

Sullivan’s ruling, which only applies to families, is set to take effect on Thursday, though the Biden administration has appealed the decision. More than 16,000 “individuals in a family unit” were expelled in August.

The Biden administration previously weighed nixing the measure by the end of July, according to NBC News, but ultimately decided against such a move. Officials were reportedly concerned that lifting it would cause a “catastrophic” migrant surge.

Two DHS officials told NBC News that the department is concerned that migrants may view the lifting of Title 42 as a green light to cross the border, and that they will be permitted to remain in the U.S. despite rulings on their asylum cases.

The concern within the department comes after the administration last week dealt with an unexpected influx of more than 25,000 Haitian migrants in Texas.

The camp where the migrants were staying has since been cleared, but photos circulated amid the chaos that depicted border officers on horseback trying to disperse the migrants.

Mayorkas said an investigation into the situation is underway.

The Hill reached out to DHS for comment.