The Department of Homeland Security plans to comply with a federal court order to stop planning to lift the Covid-era public health order known as Title 42, senior administration officials told reporters on Tuesday.
On Monday, Judge Robert Summerhays of the Western District of Louisiana said he planned to issue a temporary restraining order that would keep the Biden administration from winding town Title 42 prior to its intended lift date of May 23. Judge Summerhays, appointed by President Donald Trump, may later rule on a preliminary injunction requested by 21 states, the majority of which are led by Republican governors, that would pause the lifting of Title 42 on May 23.
“We will comply with the court order, but we really disagree with the basic premise,” said one of the officials who briefed reporters on the condition of anonymity. That official said that after Title 42 is lifted, DHS would “ramp up” fast deportations of migrants and that the court order would simply delay plans to do so.
The officials briefed reporters ahead of congressional testimony by Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Wednesday, where he is facing pressure, over the decision to lift Title 42, even from Democrats who are warning it will result in an overwhelming surge of border crossings by undocumented immigrants.
Roughly 8,000 migrants per day are currently crossing the southern border, according to internal Customs and Border Protection data obtained by NBC News, figures that could lead April to top March’s record high for border apprehensions. And the Biden administration predicts roughly 12,000 migrants per day will begin crossing the border when Title 42 is lifted. Currently, about half of those migrants encountered are turned back across the border and prevented from seeking asylum. When Title 42 is lifted, immigrants will be allowed to live in the United States while they pursue asylum claims, a process that can take between two to four years.
The Biden administration says it plans to deport more migrants who do not pass the initial screening for asylum and is working with countries in the region to accept flights returning their citizens.
One country that has refused to accept back its emigrants is Cuba. Another senior administration official told reporters on Tuesday that talks between the U.S. and Cuba over immigration policy are “ongoing” and off to a “good start.”
Families from El Salvador, Guatemala and El Salvador made up the majority of border crossers prior to the pandemic. Officials said they are not considering bringing back the practice of detaining migrants with their children, a tool used by both the Obama and Trump administrations, to deter family migration.