Cortez Masto, Rosen, Lee say Biden administration unprepared for border rush
Three of Nevada’s Democratic lawmakers called the Biden administration “insufficiently prepared” to handle the expected influx of migrants at the southern border, asking the president to “surge” resources to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), and Rep. Susie Lee (D-NV) sent the letter on the eve of the expiration of Title 42, an immigration policy implemented in 2020 that allowed federal officials to quickly expel migrants under the public health emergency without asylum processing. Using Title 42, CBP turned away 2.5 million migrants, though the figure includes individuals who tried crossing the border numerous times.
A rush of hundreds of thousands of migrants is expected after the expiration of the public health emergency, which is set for Thursday. The Biden administration is planning to send additional Homeland Security personnel to the border, deploy U.S. Army troops to assist in administrative functions, open more regional processing centers across South America and expand online resources in order to encourage legal migration.
CBP will now be operating under Title 8, which still allows for expedited removals but requires more documentation and screening before officials can expel migrants and imposes five-year bans on those migrants crossing again.
Still, the three Nevada Democrats said they had “strong concerns” about the administration’s preparedness.
“These frontline officials are being stretched thin, hampering their abilities to protect the homeland and to efficiently and humanely move people through the asylum process,” the lawmakers wrote. “That is why it is so critical that we surge resources that increase capacity both at and between ports of entry.”
They suggested deploying National Guard or contracted personnel to the border, for the security of the country and migrant children and families. The legislators also asked for greater investment in U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services technology to speed up processing times for asylum seekers.
The letter comes as House Republicans are moving their own border enforcement bill. The projected situation at the border — which Biden himself predicted is “going to be chaotic for awhile” — will likely figure into Republican attacks, particularly on vulnerable incumbents such as Rosen and Lee.
Cortez Masto and Lee had previously supported Title 42, an unpopular position among Democrats. Biden tried to end the policy in May 2022, but federal judges kept it in place. Cortez Masto and Lee said they wanted to maintain it because the Biden administration needed a better plan for dealing with the fallout of lifting it. Rosen also worried about the viability of ending the policy, fearing it could lead to chaos at the border.
Cortez Masto reiterated those concerns in a Monday interview.
“I am concerned with Title 42 [ending],” she said. “I’ve always been … we needed a plan.”
Rosen, meanwhile, had expressed humanitarian concerns about the rule, asking Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas in a 2021 hearing if he was concerned Title 42 was a new source of migrant family separations. But she did vote for an amendment to protect the rule during the 2022 omnibus spending bill vote.
The three also called for a quicker opening of the regional processing centers the Biden administration has promised, and for the use of reliable software for migrants to schedule appointments related to the asylum process.
The president, administration officials and the Nevada Democrats all agreed that no administration policy is a sufficient substitute for congressional action. Congress has infamously been loath to pass immigration policy, with the last comprehensive bill coming during the Reagan era. Biden administration officials say their border efforts are hampered by Congress not appropriating enough resources to the relevant departments.
Cortez Masto, Rosen and Lee emphasized that congressional action must include protection for Dreamers and Temporary Protected Status recipients.
“We remain absolutely committed to achieving these goals, and it’s time for both parties to sit down and get something done,” they wrote. “However, the current situation is too urgent and too dire for the Administration to wait.”