The Biden administration is considering deporting non-Mexican migrants to Mexico in an unprecedented step to stem the flow of migration to the US southern border, according to two Homeland Security officials.
Since taking office, President Joe Biden has wrestled with a growing number of migrants at the US-Mexico border, fueling criticism from Republicans and concern among some Democrats.
To manage the flow, the administration has leaned on a Trump-era Covid-19 restriction, known as Title 42, to turn away certain migrants encountered at the US-Mexico border. But with the clock ticking on its potential expiration and amid ongoing litigation, officials are considering other enforcement measures as thousands of migrants continue to move into the Western hemisphere.
The plan under consideration, which was first reported by The Washington Post, would make use of a fast-track deportation process known as “expedited removal.” Administration officials have repeatedly mentioned doubling down on the procedure in discussing post-Title 42 plans.
While Mexico has been taking migrants under Title 42 and previously under a Trump-era border policy known as “Remain in Mexico,” this would appear to mark the first time Mexico would take back non-Mexican deportees at a large scale. Negotiations between the US and Mexico are ongoing, the officials said.
CNN reached out to the Department of Homeland Security for comment. An administration official denied the reports.
“Reports that we are considering mass deportations of non-Mexicans to Mexico are false,” the official said. “We’re focused on continuing to work closely with the government of Mexico to implement our successful border enforcement plan. That plan has already resulted in the lowest border encounter numbers between ports of entry in two years.”
The US has often looked to Mexico for help with the surge of migrants journeying north over the years. Last month, Biden visited Mexico and commended Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador for accepting migrants turned away under Title 42.
“We also want to thank you, Mr. President, for stepping up to receive into Mexico those not following the lawful pathways we’ve made available, instead of – attempting to unlawfully cross the border between our countries,” Biden said in his January remarks at the North American Leaders’ Summit.
The shifting migration patterns has put a strain on federal resources, as border authorities have encountered an increasing number of Cubans, Venezuelans and Nicaraguans. The US is largely barred from deporting migrants from those nationalities back to their home countries because of strained diplomatic relations.
The US has since begun sending migrants from Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua to Mexico under Title 42 and opened a separate program that allows migrants of those nationalities and Haiti to apply to legally come to the United States. Thousands of migrants have already applied.
Administration officials have credited the program for leading to a recent drop in border crossings.
“This is a very novel approach to building lawful and safe pathways premised on the foundational point, which historically has been proven true that people will wait if we deliver for them a lawful and safe pathway to come here,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told reporters this month.
While immigrant advocates have welcomed the program, they’ve denounced the administration’s enforcement measures that they argue make it more difficult for migrants to seek asylum in the US.
A rule that could bar some migrants from seeking asylum in the US is also expected to be released soon, marking yet another attempt by the administration to try to manage mass migration in the region.