Are federal officials prepared for a massive surge in migrants to the southern border this month? 

By the end of October, the worst-case scenario for immigration officials might play out: 400,000 people attempting to enter the U.S. illegally. With COVID-era policies limiting immigration still up-in-the-air, we can expect to see large numbers of migrants attempting to gain entrance illegally.

This should be as alarming for President Biden and Vice President Harris as it is for their cabinet secretary in charge of immigration, but with the Haitian surge abated, they’ve moved on to other things.

Another month of record-high border apprehensions could drag their attention back to the border and make for a spooky Halloween. There’s no treat for American citizens when human traffickers and drug cartels trick border agents by overwhelming them with people while they funnel illicit drugs and weapons into our nation.

Officials sound the alarm

Last week, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas asked his officials whether they were ready for a worst-case scenario in which 350,000 to 400,000 migrants cross the border in October.

This would be up to double the record-high in July and the near-record high in August when more than 200,000 people crossed the border each month.

While there’s reportedly no specific “internal intelligence or calculations” that this many individuals will attempt to cross, they have to plan for the worse and this would be the worst-case scenario if Title 42 comes to an end soon.

The status of Title 42

Title 42, a Trump-era health policy implemented during the pandemic to control the spread of COVID-19, authorized the U.S. government to block migrants even asylum seekers from entering the U.S. 

Activists have opposed Title 42 and demanded that President Biden end the last line of defense that has turned away most single adults and some families. The Biden administration decided to suspend the policy for unaccompanied minors leading to the many children being held in U.S. custody, as we’ve written about previously.

The White House knows that it would be folly from a public health perspective to end Title 42. A White House official noted, “The CDC has determined that the continued expulsion of certain individuals under Title 42 is necessary due to the risks of transmission and spread of COVID-19 in congregate settings, such as U.S. Customs and Border Patrol stations, as well as the threat from emerging variants.”

The problem is that in mid-September, a federal judge blocked the administration from using Title 42 to expel migrant families arguing that the policy can’t prohibit people from seeking asylum. However, late last week the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C Circuit gave the Biden administration the green light to resume expulsions under Title 42 again.

President Biden mulled ending Title 42 back in July, but the spike in COVID-infections due to the Delta variant changed those plans. It’s not that he wants to keep it but that he has little choice. He overturned other Trump-era immigration policies and his administration is seeking to replace the Remain in Mexico policy for good. 

Mixed signals spell more trouble

Litigation over Title 42 continues as activists try every avenue to repeal this critical health tool. Meanwhile, the administration’s relaxed approach to the southern border continues to transmit a signal globally that the U.S. is open to illegal immigration. 

For example, although the U.S. expelled some Haitian immigrants who were posted under a Del Rio bridge two weeks ago, thousands of people were released into the U.S.

Now, U.S. senators say a caravan of 15,000 people is working its way through Mexico and an official from Panama has warned that a caravan of 60,000 people is on its way to the southern border, most of them are Haitians. 

If history repeats itself, it’s just a matter of time before another wave of migrants overwhelms vulnerable parts of the border again expecting to be admitted, just as others have been. 

President Biden and VP Harris have returned to ignoring the border at their peril. The administration is bound to repeat the same mistakes until they stop prioritizing partisan politics and start putting our national security, sovereignty, and public safety first.