Memo Indicates Biden Admin Does Not See Border Surge Ending Soon

U.S. Border Patrol takes immigrants into custody at Arizona-Mexico border / Getty Images
February 16, 2022

The Biden administration is expanding the size of migrant processing facilities on the southern border, a sign it does not see the immigration crisis ending any time soon.

An internal document sent to senior Customs and Border Protection officials, obtained by the Washington Free Beacon, describes plans by the agency to construct three permanent processing facilities for up to 1,000 migrants at a time in Del Rio, Laredo, and El Paso, Texas. An existing temporary U.S. Border Patrol processing site in Yuma, Ariz., will double in size and also be made permanent.

CBP’s expansion of permanent processing facilities comes as the Biden administration has given no indication of how it plans to decrease the number of attempted crossings at the southern border. In January, immigration officials arrested more than 75,000 migrants at the southern border, an increase of 6 percent over the previous month, despite migration generally dropping during winter months due to colder temperatures.

CBP did not respond to a request for comment.

"Border Patrol working as processing dummies is the new normal," one senior Department of Homeland Security official told the Free Beacon. "Enforcement and protecting the border is secondary now."

The decision was made, according to the document, after analyzing surge patterns from migrants. The permanent facilities will replace temporary facilities in the same sectors. The sectors in the memo have faced some of the highest numbers of migrants in the entire country. Del Rio, for example, saw more than 259,000 migrants apprehended in the 2021 fiscal year. 

CBP’s memo says the plan to replace temporary facilities was made out of cost concerns. The new sites, the memo says, will also help "sustainably meet operational needs." The memo does not elaborate on how these new facilities will cut costs.

President Joe Biden has largely avoided commenting on the border crisis, although members of his administration, such as Press Secretary Jen Psaki and Vice President Kamala Harris, have said they are focused on "root causes" rather than border security. DHS secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has admitted to Border Patrol agents that there are few signs of a slowdown in attempted crossings. In leaked remarks last month, Mayorkas said, "The job has not gotten any easier over the last few months and it was very, very difficult throughout 2021."

"I know apprehending families and kids is not what you signed up to do. And now we got a composition that is changing even more with Cubans, Venezuelans, Nicaraguans, and the like, it just gets more difficult," Mayorkas said. 

Republican lawmakers and current and former DHS officials have criticized the Biden administration for redirecting Border Patrol agents, whose chief responsibility is securing the border, to processing facilities. Last June, Sen. Rob Portman (R., Ohio) said that agents distracted by lengthy processing responsibilities present opportunities for cartels to "move large quantities of illicit narcotics, like fentanyl, into the United States."

The 2021 fiscal year saw more migrant apprehensions than any other year on record, with law enforcement reporting more than 1.6 million arrests and more than two million migrant encounters.