The crisis on the southwest border is forcing the Department of Homeland Security to consider flying migrants all the way to Vermont for processing, according to internal documents reviewed by the Washington Free Beacon.
Federal immigration agencies are preparing contingency plans for a chaotic fall and winter that include looking to states thousands of miles away for assistance. According to a memo obtained by the Free Beacon, DHS is husbanding resources for the "unconfirmed" transfer of migrants to New York and Vermont and awaiting a response from Border Patrol about the number of additional processing machines required.
A spokeswoman for Customs and Border Protection declined to address the Vermont relocation plans, saying the department does not comment on leaked information.
The Oct. 6 memo indicates that federal officials are considering moving migrants to the Swanton Sector, a Border Patrol site that encompasses 24,000 square miles and includes the entire state of Vermont, as well as broad swaths of upstate New York and New Hampshire. The internal deliberations come just weeks after more than 10,000 migrants, mostly from Haiti, arrived in Del Rio, Texas, and sparked a humanitarian crisis in the border town.
The Swanton Sector, documents show, would require across-the-board upgrades to facilities in order to expand capacity. New computers and cellular systems for internet connection are just two of the technology overhauls required for the mission. The document did not indicate how many migrants the Swanton Sector should expect if they are indeed processed there.
"The idea of moving migrants from Haiti and South America to one of the country’s coldest regions shows how disastrous the situation is on the southern border and that DHS is running low on options," one senior DHS official said, noting the peculiar nature of potentially relocating people more acclimated to the warmer climates of South America.
More than 1.5 million migrants have crossed the southern border in 2021, with that number expected to reach 2 million by the end of the year given current trends. The month of August saw 208,887 encounters, with July recording the most encounters in more than two decades.
The release of migrants into border towns has created tension with mayors and city officials. The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated concerns by local leaders on the border that the release of migrants puts further strain on public health facilities.
An inspector general report released in September concluded that the Biden administration has yet to implement a "formal" COVID-19 testing policy for migrants. Most holding facilities are operating far beyond capacity, making "proper physical distancing" impossible, per the IG.
Some cities, such as Laredo, Texas, have filed lawsuits against the Biden administration in order to stop DHS’s practice of dropping off migrants on the streets. Citing overwhelmed hospitals, Laredo officials called the Biden administration’s conduct a direct threat to the health of residents.
The inspector general and critics of the Biden administration say that the administration’s decision not to fully use Title 42—a federal law that allows the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to effectively shut down the nation’s border during a health crisis—continues creating incentives for migrants from around the world to come to the border and apply for asylum. President Joe Biden has expanded Title 42 exemptions to include unaccompanied minors as well as family units, while focusing on deporting single men without a humanitarian-related reason to stay in the country.
The Biden administration is trying to end the Trump-era "Remain in Mexico" policy that forces asylum seekers to wait outside the United States before their asylum court hearing. The Supreme Court ruled against the Biden administration's request for a stay on a federal court ruling that found Biden acted unlawfully when trying to end the program. Proponents of "Remain in Mexico" argue the program deters migrants without credible claims of asylum from entering the country.