Mayorkas says administration to announce plans to address expected border surge

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas says the Biden administration is getting ready to announce a new border security plan to handle an expected surge of migrants when pandemic-era immigration restrictions lift May 11.

“I think next week we’ll have more to say about our preparation and some of the things we are going to be doing,” Mayorkas told reporters at the Department of Homeland Security headquarters on Thursday.

President Biden has come under steady fire from Republican lawmakers over his administration’s handling of the border. This week, Sen. Roger Marshall (R-Kan.) filed a vote of no confidence resolution against Mayorkas, saying his handling of the border is negligent.

“I stand at the ready to receive articles of impeachment from the House and conduct an impeachment trial in this body,” Marshall said at a Judiciary Committee hearing Tuesday. “But in the meantime, I think the Senate must show our colleagues in the House that we’ve had enough of the failures from the Department of Homeland Security and believe that the secretary is not fit to faithfully carry out the duties of his office.”

Illegal border crossings are expected to increase significantly starting in May once pandemic-era rules on immigration expire, most notably Title 42, which allows the U.S. to quickly turn away undocumented migrants without allowing them to seek asylum in the interest of public health.

“We’re certainly going to see numbers higher than we’re seeing today,” Border Patrol Commissioner Troy Miller said in a hearing Wednesday.

Miller cited U.N. statistics that an estimated 660,000 migrants are traveling through Mexico right now. He said the number of border crossings could nearly double to about 10,000 per day.

Mayorkas did not disclose what the new plan would be, but he said the department would prepare with additional bed space in migrant facilities.

Nearly 2 million migrants have been turned back from the border using Title 42. The Biden administration has come under fire from Democrats and activists who have said the measure does not provide border crossers with their right to seek asylum in the U.S.

The administration has attempted to overturn Title 42 in the past but ran into roadblocks in federal court and opposition from Republican lawmakers in border states. With the coronavirus pandemic officially over, the administration no longer expects any legal challenges.

Mayorkas said the department is considering a new rule to more easily deny asylum claims. Migrants who have not applied for asylum in other countries on their way to the U.S. or have crossed the border illegally would not be eligible for asylum. 

The rule is in the public comment period, and Mayorkas said Tuesday that there is not a specific date for implementation as of now.

Mayorkas was questioned by House and Senate lawmakers this week in hearings that saw him receive harsh criticism and some personal attacks.

Much of the criticism was focused on reports that a significant number of child migrants were placed with sponsors who forced them to work, sometimes through the night, at dangerous factories.

Immigration is expected to be a major issue in the 2024 election; Biden is expected to announce his reelection campaign in the coming days.