The expiry of Title 42 is expected to bring an influx of migrants to the southern US border
By Holly Honderich
The US is sending 1,500 troops to bolster resources at its southern border ahead of an expected surge of migrants, the defence department said.
They will accompany 2,500 National Guard members already in place to support the work of border agents.
Title 42, a Trump-era policy that gives the government power to automatically expel undocumented migrants, is set to expire on 11 May.
Officials expect a sharp increase in migrants to follow.
The additional military personnel will be deployed for 90 days to “supplement” the work of US Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) officers, a US official told the BBC on Tuesday.
They will not be doing any law enforcement, the official said, but will instead assist with transportation, narcotics detection, data entry and warehouse support.
In a statement released later by the Department of Defense, the agency said the additional personnel would fill “critical capability gaps”.
Pentagon spokesman General Patrick Ryder told media on Tuesday that his agency has supported the Department of Homeland Security on the southern border for 18 of the last 22 years, and every year since 2006. The troops will arrive as early as 10 May, General Ryder said.
The deployment is meant to ease the growing pressure on border agents as they prepare for a sharp increase in migrants at the southern border.
Migrant numbers at US border hit new record high
What is the Trump-era Title 42 immigration policy?
The number of migrants who crossed illegally into the US there during the 2021 fiscal year was the highest on record since at least 1960. Last year, that number topped 2.76 million – another record.
Troy Miller, the top CBP official, told Congress last month that his agency is preparing for more than 10,000 migrants to cross the border each day after the expiry of Title 42 – more than double the daily average in March.
Watch: What US border policy shift means for migrants
Initially invoked in early 2020 at the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, Title 42 allowed the US government to quickly expel migrants trying to cross its border with Mexico – including asylum seekers – with the stated intent of preventing the coronavirus from spreading in the US.
The Biden administration has unveiled a plan that would make it harder for migrants to claim asylum by requiring adult asylum seekers to use an app to book a meeting with US officials or first claim asylum in another country before reaching the US.
The app, known as CBP One, was rolled out in January and will remain in place regardless of Title 42.
Failure to comply would make migrants ineligible if they subsequently reach the border and would allow for those undocumented migrants to be swiftly deported.The plan – and its expedited removal of some migrants, including asylum seekers – prompted criticism from human rights groups.
Last month, the White House also announced it would set up brick-and-mortar immigration processing centres in Latin America, another effort to reduce the number of undocumented migrants crossing into the US.
The centres, with locations starting in Colombia and Guatemala, will screen migrants and determine whether they qualify for entry to the US.