Blog Post: LEITF Members Receive a White House Briefing on the Humanitarian Crisis at the Border
March 31, 2021
Law Enforcement Immigration Task Force Blog
In light of humanitarian crisis at the Southern border – and particularly the recent increase in unaccompanied migrant children seeking asylum at the border – the White House provided a briefing for members of the National Immigration Forum’s Law Enforcement Immigration Task Force (LEITF) and Council on National Security and Immigration (CNSI) on Monday, March 15th. This briefing provided LEITF members with the opportunity to learn more about the Biden administration’s response to the influx in migration at the border, and the ramifications for the health and wellbeing of the public.
In the briefing, members of the Domestic Policy Council and National Security Council outlined (1) the Biden administration’s policy goals for the border; (2) the current situation at the border; and (3) the steps taken by the administration to ameliorate this humanitarian crisis. Below is a summary of the points discussed, and the way forward.
The Biden Administration’s Goals for the Border
According to members of the Domestic Policy Council, the Biden administration plans to:
Invest in Central American countries to directly address root causes of migration and ensure that those who want to stay in their countries are able to do so.
Establish better, more efficient legal processes to process those seeking asylum.
Crack down on smugglers and traffickers who take advantage of migrants and exploit migrant routes to bring drugs across the border.
Strengthen U.S. anti-drug policies.
Strengthen and expand the use of technology at the border to create a better infrastructure for border security.
The Biden administration is taking initial steps to execute these goals and will seek support from Congress to obtain the necessary resources as needed.
The Current Situation at the Border
According to members of the Domestic Policy Council, the Biden Administration is:
Urgently addressing unaccompanied migrant children arriving at the border, many of whom are attempting to unite with their families.
Capitalizing on bed space provided by the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), a division of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), while respecting COVID-19 capacity guidelines. At 13,000, ORR has more beds than they have ever had, but due to COVID-19 restriction, the Biden administration is not able to utilize this capacity to its entirety. The Biden administration anticipates that 2,000 additional beds will be available now that the Center for Disease Control (CDC) is aware of the severity of the situation.
Directing the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to assist in expanding HHS’s capacity to shelter unaccompanied children under the leadership of DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.
Revitalizing the Central American Minors program, which will allow parents of children seeking asylum to apply while their children are still in their country of origin. This program has the potential to alleviate pressure on the border.
Actively attempting to reduce the amount of time children are being held.
Additional Planned Actions
According to members of the National Security Council, the Biden administration will also:
Gradually wind down the Migration Protection Protocols (MPP) – or “Remain in Mexico” program – which will allow for a measured re-opening of the border to asylum seekers. In using a triage system, the administration will also be able to effectively screen for national security threats.
Make overall improvements to the asylum system so it operates more efficiently while adhering to COVID-19 protocols.
Moving forward, the Biden administration is planning to roll out resources to facilitate communication on the humanitarian crisis at the border and hopes to develop an authoritative source for current border policies and how they should be implemented. Administration representatives also stated that they are committed to transparency, accountability, and communication with concerned communities directly affected by the border surge. For more information on the White House’s plan to address this humanitarian crisis, please see Secretary Mayorkas’ recent statement regarding the situation on the Southwest Border, in which he describes the state of play and expands upon many of the actions described above.
As the humanitarian crisis at the border continues – with apprehensions expected to increase in the coming months – it will be imperative for the Biden administration to seek the input and partnership of local and state law enforcement. This briefing marked a positive first stride towards improved communication and coordination between federal officials and their counterparts at the state and local level.