From razor wire to bus routes: How states are preparing for migrant surge

Governors of states along the southern border are preparing for an anticipated uptick in migrant crossings ahead of Title 42’s expiration on Thursday.

The 1944 Public Health Act statute was invoked by the administration of former President Donald Trump during the COVID-19 pandemic, allowing the U.S. to turn migrants away at the border without going through a formal asylum process. Title 42 is set to expire on Thursday, however, in sync with President Joe Biden‘s end to the COVID public health emergency.

Biden’s decision has drawn widespread backlash from Republicans and Democrats alike, who argue that chaos could ensue in border states without the policy. Under Title 42, the U.S. has been able to turn away nearly 2.7 million people along the border, but the number of asylum-seekers is expected to spike without it.

A Texas Department of Safety trooper on Thursday drives by military-style Humvees parked along the border wall near Texas Southmost College in Brownsville. Several border states have announced plans to navigate the anticipated influx in migrant crossings ahead of the expiration of Title 42.
Michael Gonzalez/Getty Images

Razor Wire and Task Forces

Some border states have started to enact their own plans in preparation for life without Title 42, including Texas Governor Greg Abbott, who announced Monday that hundreds of Texas National Guard members were headed to “border hotspots” as part of the newly created Texas Tactical Border Force, which is tasked with repelling “illegal crossings.”

On Tuesday, the Republican governor also shared a video on Twitter taken near Brownsville, Texas, which shows razor wire being placed along the state’s southern border.

“This is one thing Texas is doing to secure the border,” read the tweet. “This is the area near Brownsville where migrants were crossing in large numbers a few days ago. We now have it wired shut. Other areas will surface for crossing. We will wire them shut also. More to come.”

Abbott shared another photo later in the day of razor wire being set up by members of the National Guard in El Paso.

Fresh Bus Routes

Democratic Arizona Governor Katie Hobbs also announced additional steps that her border state was taking earlier this week, including implementing five additional bus routes to transport migrants from small border towns to the city of Tucson. The Arizona Republic reported that the routes were established to avoid “migrant street releases” in border communities that lack the infrastructure to care for the anticipated influx.

Hobbs has also said that she may consider sending additional members of the Arizona National Guard to border communities if necessary, reported the Republic. There are currently around 180 already deployed along the southern border.

In a tweet on Tuesday, Hobbs offered a message of support to the border communities in her state: “My message to border communities is this: we stand with you. We are here to support you. But as I have said before, we cannot do this alone. My office will continue to pressure the federal government to do it’s [sic] job and get us the help we need ahead of the lifting of Title 42.”

Neither California Governor Gavin Newsom nor New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham have indicated plans to deploy additional state National Guard forces to the border, and both Democratic leaders have been relatively silent about the Title 42 expiration.

ABC affiliate KOAT in Albuquerque, New Mexico, previously received a statement from the New Mexico National Guard saying that it had not been “tasked” by Grisham for a “mission at the border, but just as we respond to wildfires and floods in New Mexico, we are always prepared to serve our state and nation.”

Newsweek has reached out to Newsom and Grisham’s offices via email for additional information.

How Biden Is Responding

Last week, Biden approved the deployment of 1,500 active troops to the U.S.-Mexico border at the Department of Homeland Security‘s (DHS) request. The additional personnel will be deployed to border states for 90 days following Title 42’s expiration as a way to “supplement” U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers.

“These 1,500 military personnel will fill critical capability gaps, such as ground-based detection and monitoring, data entry and warehouse support, until CBP can address these needs through contracted support. They will not be doing any law enforcement work,” a U.S. official previously told Newsweek.

Still, states are worried that a rush in border crossings will overwhelm their current immigration officials. Hobbs told reporters during a press conference on Monday that she had sent letters to Biden and DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas “outlining specific actions that need to be taken” in response to the end of Title 42, but had “not received an adequate response.”

“We will continue to relentlessly pressure the federal government until we truly get the resources we need to manage the expected influx,” Hobbs said, according to a report from KSAV in Phoenix.

When asked about Hobbs’ statement, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters Tuesday that the Biden administration “welcomes” Hobbs’ additional steps in Arizona and promised that the federal government remains in close contact with border communities.

“We are putting forth a robust plan, and were putting that in place to do this in a humane way, to do this in an orderly way, through enforcement, deterrence and diplomacy,” Jean-Pierre said. “We’ve been very clear about that, not just today, not just yesterday, not just last week, but for the past several months.”

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