U.S. Border Patrol laid the groundwork last week for a mass release of illegal immigrants into the country in the event of a significant border surge resulting from the termination of Title 42.
In a memo obtained by the Daily Caller, Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz handed down specific instructions on how and where to release migrants from federal custody, ordering personnel to conduct releases in areas near safe food and transportation services.
Ortiz said that the releases should be conducted near non-governmental organizations (NGOs) capable of providing assistance and indicated that drop-off points could include nearby cities and towns.
A massive surge was widely anticipated at the border after President Joe Biden announced that he planned to formally end Title 42, a Trump-era policy that allows border agents to turn away illegal immigrants over COVID-19 health concerns.
However, on Friday, only three days before the policy was supposed to be lifted, a federal judge in Louisiana sided with a group of 20 U.S. attorneys general and extended a preliminary injunction against the Biden administration, blocking its termination of the policy.
The plans for mass releases likely remain in place, though, in case the policy is ultimately ended in the coming weeks or months.
In the memo, Ortiz reported that Border Patrol facilities had become “near or over capacity” due to “historic numbers of noncitizens” entering the country and noted that the guidance comes as his agency faces a “current migrant surge and is preparing for the anticipated increase in encounters of undocumented noncitizens following the anticipated lifting of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Title 42 public health order.”
“The guidance is for situations where U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement and Removal Operations are unable to accept custody of noncitizens due to lack of bed space, such that noncitizens must be released directly from USBP custody to avoid overcrowding and excessive time in custody,” he wrote.
“To the extent possible,” he instructed, migrants should be released near NGOs, noting that liaison officers were available to help agents “identify in advance the specific locations which are most appropriate for the releases, paying particular attention to the availability of services and transportation options.”
“If safe locations are not available … LNOs will engage nearby cities and local governments to identify alternate safe locations for release,” he further added, pressing that releases needed to be conducted in a safe, orderly, and humane way.
Biden’s decision to end Title 42 is the administration’s most unpopular move to date, according to a Morning Consult survey.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection did not respond in time after being reached by the Daily Caller for comment.