As illegal border crossings reach record highs, the Biden administration is considering a novel idea: make it even easier for migrants to enter the country.
A senior official familiar with the plan told the Washington Free Beacon that the Department of Homeland Security wants to dispatch Customs and Border Protection agents to areas of Mexico that have seen large influxes of migrants. There, documents obtained by the Free Beacon show, law enforcement would begin the screening process for migrants and expedite their final journey across the southern border.
Such a program is virtually unprecedented, and represents an escalation of what critics call the Biden administration’s facilitation of illegal immigration.
"What the Department of Homeland Security wants to do is send customs officers to Mexico so we can pre-clear surges of migrants ostensibly in hopes they stop crossing illegally," the DHS official told the Free Beacon. "They would be doing background vetting so migrants can be waved through."
But the plan could put further strain on Border Patrol, which already faces a staffing shortage ahead of an expected winter surge. Staff who spoke with the Free Beacon said miles of the southern border have gone unguarded because agents have been relegated to processing migrants.
President Joe Biden has overseen the largest immigration crisis in U.S. history, with law enforcement recording more than five million illegal crossings on the southern border since he took office. Blue state governors say the record number of migrants coming to their cities is straining their welfare systems, and cities including New York and Chicago are considering budget cuts to offset the cost of housing and feeding migrants.
The Department of Homeland Security declined to comment.
There is ample evidence the Biden administration is well aware of large groups of migrants heading to the United States well before they reach the southern border. Since September, the Free Beacon reported, senior Department of Homeland Security officials have been in communication with Mexican immigration authorities over large caravans traveling to the United States but have seemingly done little to prepare.
Biden has implemented measures he says will create a more orderly immigration system, such as a program that would allow migrants to apply for asylum remotely. Biden claimed the program would "make things better but will not fix the border problem completely," while Republicans say it is illegal.
The program has not led to a decrease in border crossings. The 2023 fiscal year, which ended in October, saw 2.47 million migrant encounters on the southern border—the most in U.S. history.
The proposal to pre-screen migrants comes as the Senate negotiates a border security plan, which Democrats have bundled with a plan to provide military aid for Ukraine and Israel. House Speaker Mike Johnson (R., La.) has insisted that any Ukraine aid bill must include the Secure the Border Act, which would cap the number of people who can claim asylum, as well as fund the construction of a border wall.
As Biden has faced bipartisan criticism over his handling of the southern border, he has attempted to place blame on Republicans. His reelection campaign called former president Donald Trump, who leads the Republican field for the 2024 presidential nomination, "extreme" and "racist" on the issue.
A Biden spokesman told Politico last month that another Trump term would bring "mass detention camps [and] attempts to deny children born here citizenship."
That message has not appeared to resonate with voters. An NBC News poll released earlier this month found Republicans had an 18-point lead over Democrats on the issue of immigration.