The U.S. government announced Monday it would dispatch Border Patrol agents to apprehend migrants in El Paso, Texas who crossed the southern border surreptitiously, saying those taken into custody could be expelled, detained or placed in deportation proceedings.
Customs and Border Protection (CBP) said agents in El Paso would launch an operation Tuesday to apprehend migrants who can’t prove that they had been processed and released by the agency after crossing into the U.S.
The operation is designed to target many of the thousands of migrants who have been sleeping on the streets of El Paso amid a spike in migrant crossings in the lead-up to the end of the Title 42 public health restrictions on Thursday.
“As we have said repeatedly, individuals who do not have a lawful basis to remain will be removed,” Troy Miller, the acting head of CBP, said in a statement. “Individuals should not listen to the lies of smugglers and instead use lawful pathways to protection.”
Those found without U.S. government documents in El Paso will be processed so officials can determine whether they should be expelled under Title 42 or placed in regular deportation proceedings and released with a notice to appear in court. Officials said migrants found to be threats to national security or public safety would be sent to long-term detention centers.
When migrants are released from U.S. custody at the border, they receive official government documents, which can include immigration court notices or instructions to check in with immigration officials in their respective destinations.
Officials said they would generally refrain from apprehending migrants near locations known as “protected areas” that provide essential services, such as shelters.
El Paso has been struggling with a sharp increase in migrant arrivals in recent days that prompted local officials to issue a disaster declaration.
The rise in crossings near El Paso is part of a broader spike in migration across the southern border as officials there prepare to discontinue Title 42 due to the expiration of the national Covid-19 public health emergency.
The Border Patrol averaged over 8,700 daily migrant apprehensions during a three-day period in the past week, a 67% jump from the 5,200 average in March, according to the agency’s chief, Raul Ortiz.
Department of Homeland Security officials have said the number of migrants crossing the southern border each day could surpass 10,000 after Title 42 lapses.
Officials in border communities such as El Paso and popular migrant destinations like New York City have implored the Biden administration to increase federal support for sheltering and feeding large groups of migrants. Centrist Democrats and Republicans in Washington, D.C., meanwhile, have accused the Biden administration of failing to properly prepare for the end of Title 42.
But the administration has argued that recently announced measures that pair increased deportations and asylum restrictions with expanded opportunities for migrants to enter the U.S. legally will eventually deter migrants from journeying to the southern border.