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If you invite them, they will come? Border fun!

If someone breaks into my house, I don't tell them to leave. The Christian thing to do is to invite them to stay with me for a couple of years till their felony case comes up for trial. In the meantime, I'm going to make them a ham sandwich. Hey wait a minute...I'm Jewish.

Biden Administration Braces for Bigger Surge of Illegal Border Crossings

Border Patrol is making thousands of arrests as officials weigh lifting pandemic-era policy allowing agents to turn away migrants seeking asylum

By Michelle HackmanFollow

Updated Mar. 29, 2022 6:30 pm ET

WASHINGTON—The Biden administration is bracing for an unprecedented surge of illegal crossings at the U.S.-Mexico border this spring and summer, as officials weigh whether to lift a pandemic-era policy allowing Border Patrol agents to turn away migrants seeking asylum.

The number of migrants crossing the southern border has increased again in recent weeks to the crushing levels seen last summer that overwhelmed Border Patrol stations as well as a network of border shelters that care for migrants if they are released from Border Patrol custody. Officials are projecting that crossings will rise even more as the weather improves and political instability and economic hardship roil parts of Latin America, according to current and former administration officials.

The Border Patrol has made approximately 7,000 arrests each day in March, according to preliminary government data seen by The Wall Street Journal. That puts the U.S. on pace to record more than 200,000 arrests for March, the highest monthly total in at least 22 years, and more than a million for the first six months of the government’s fiscal year, Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz said at a conference in San Antonio on Tuesday.

The administration, through a task force it set up last year called the Southwest Border Coordination Center, is planning for several scenarios in which daily border crossings climb even higher, to as many as 18,000 per day, officials told reporters on a Tuesday call.

They are preemptively strengthening government contracts for transportation and medical care, the officials said, and adding more staff to handle increased arrivals. Gen. Glen VanHerck, the head of U.S. Northern Command, said at a Senate hearing last week the administration was weighing sending additional troops to the border.

Surge in Migrant Families at U.S. Southern Border Tests Border Cities

Surge in Migrant Families at U.S. Southern Border Tests Border Cities

Surge in Migrant Families at U.S. Southern Border Tests Border Cities

Play video: Surge in Migrant Families at U.S. Southern Border Tests Border Cities

Border cities like Brownsville, Texas, are seeing their resources stretched as they work to manage the growing number of migrant families crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. WSJ’s Michelle Hackman reports. Photo: Verónica G. Cárdenas

Already, border patrol facilities in Del Rio, Tx., and Yuma, Ariz., sections of the border that have historically seen low levels of crossings, are at several times their usual capacity. When Border Patrol officials become that overwhelmed, they sometimes opt to release migrants without court dates, making it tougher to track them later.

The rapidly increasing numbers mean the Biden administration faces a number of complicated decisions. Administration officials believe they must end Title 42, the Trump-era pandemic policy at the border, but are fearful that taking the step could produce some of the worst-case scenarios they have started planning for, people familiar with their thinking said.

Though a federal appeals court ruled earlier in March that the administration’s use of Title 42 was mostly legal, many Biden administration officials want to end it soon so that it would be more difficult for any future administration to attempt to reinstate it.

Some top White House officials, however, expressed hesitation, the people said. One possibility is that the administration could end Title 42 for migrant families, the subject of the appeals court ruling, while maintaining it for single adults.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the agency that technically gives the government the authority to expel migrants on public-health grounds, must decide by Wednesday as part of its periodic review whether to extend the policy or let it lapse.

Republicans have blamed the Biden administration’s policies for the surge of migrants and urged against ending Title 42. Doing so would “only worsen this influx and further endanger our communities,” the House Republican Conference said on Twitter.

President Biden is also facing opposing pressures on the issue from fellow Democrats. Numerous members of Congress, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.), have called on the administration to end Title 42 and allow normal asylum processing at the border to resume, particularly as mask mandates and other pandemic restrictions have been relaxed with the administration’s backing.

Their demands are echoed by immigration advocates including Guerline Jozef, president of the Haitian Bridge Alliance, whose group says that several of the Haitian migrants the U.S. deported back to Haiti under Title 42 had since been killed. “Title 42 harms those most vulnerable at the border, with deadly consequences,” she said.

Last week, Sens. Mark Kelly and Kyrsten Sinema, the two Democratic Senators from Arizona, exhorted the administration in a joint letter to keep Title 42 in place until they had a “comprehensive replacement plan” ready to implement.

“We write to you to express our great concern about the lack of a specific plan from your Administration with respect to potential changes to the Title 42 Public Health authority,” the senators wrote in their letter.

The Arizona Senators’ perspective is an important factor in the White House’s considerations, one of the people familiar with the matter said. Mr. Kelly is up for reelection in November, and his race is viewed as one of a handful that will likely determine control of the Senate.

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