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The Biden administration has been pushing its plan for how it is going to cope with the expected migrant surge once Title 42 lifts at the end of the month — but, so far, moderate Democrats who had demanded a plan be in place are not impressed with what they are seeing.
“I have not heard the detail I need to be confident in the government’s plan. In order to meet this moment, DHS needs to be able to share operational details regarding how they plan to move migrants through the processing system in a manner that will keep Arizona communities safe and treat migrants fairly and humanely,” Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., said in a Senate Homeland Security Committee hearing on Thursday.
A slew of moderate Democrats have raised concerns about the looming end to the Title 42 public health order, which the Biden administration intends to lift on May 23. The order allows for the rapid expulsion of migrants at the southern border due to COVID-19 and has been used to expel a majority of migrants since March 2020.
It’s looming end has raised fears that the already sky-high migrant numbers will soar even further once the order lifts. DHS has acknowledged those bipartisan concerns and said it is planning for up to 18,000 migrants a day.
A number of Senate Democrats, especially those locked in tight re-election fights, have called for the administration to make sure a plan is in place — with five Democrats signing onto a bill that would delay the lifting by at least 60 days and demand DHS provide a plan on handling the surge.
Since then DHS has provided a lengthy memo outlining its “plan for Southwest Border Security and Preparedness.” The memo outlines what it calls a “a whole-of-government plan to prepare for and manage increased encounters of noncitizens at our Southwest Border.”
The six-step plan released by the administration involves the surging of resources, including medical support and transportation to the border, as well as initiatives to streamline the processing of migrants from the border to their release into the interior of the United States.
But Sinema, who introduced the bipartisan legislation in Congress, was not satisfied with what DHS has produced so far.
“As of this moment, I do not feel confident that the system is ready for this mass migration that could occur as early as May 23,” she told DHS officials at the hearing.
Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., expressed similar reservations after grilling officials on the plan.
“One of my concerns about…this discussion we’ve been having about getting ready for the eventual lifting of Title 42 is people keep telling me ‘but we have a plan’ and it isn’t clear that having the plan and actually having resources on the ground to meet that plan are the same thing,” she said.
Sen. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., has also said he is not confident with what he has seen from DHS.
“I’ve read it. I’ve got more questions about how and when additional resources will hit the ground,” Kelly told Fox News last week. “I have been raising the need for comprehensive planning on the border since early last year.”
“I recently made my fifth visit to the Arizona-Mexico border and I can tell you that folks on the ground don’t feel prepared for this policy change and still see a lack of communication and coordination. We are less than 30 days from the Biden Administration’s self-imposed deadline, and they still have a lot of work to do,” he added.
Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., was similarly dismissive of the plan.
“Right now, I haven’t seen a comprehensive plan,” Cortez Masto told the Nevada Independent.
Meanwhile, other Democrats like Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., have not commented on the memo itself, but have previously expressed such strong reservations that those fears would be unlikely to be assuaged with the memo.
Manchin called the move to end the order “frightening” and has backed calls to make Title 42 permanent, given the massive surge at the border.
“We are already facing an unprecedented increase in migrants this year, and that will only get worse if the Administration ends the Title 42 policy,” he said in a statement last month. “We are nowhere near prepared to deal with that influx.”