New DHS Plan for Major Border Surge To Rely on Secretive Operations that Pre-Legalize Immigrants for Mexican Handoffs Through US Border Ports

In November, Todd Bensman revealed the fast-expanding, legally questionable program as ‘the new face of Biden’s border crisis’

By Todd Bensman

AUSTIN, Texas — Maybe to help America more easily absorb the shock of a post-Title 42 daily onslaught of between 12,000 and 18,000 immigrants expected to start crossing the southern border after December 21, the Biden Department of Homeland Security has issued a public memo describing its unprecedented preparations.

Buried deep within DHS’s “Update on Southwest Border Security and Preparedness Ahead of Court-Ordered Lifting of Title 42” is a “6-pillar” plan that includes expansion of a highly unusual and legally questioned operation wherein Mexican authorities hand off immigrants directly to US Customs and Border Protection officers at ports of entry all along the southern border. These immigrants are already tentatively approved while inside Mexico and set up for quick US work authorization after Mexican immigration hand-delivers them to CBP counterparts inside port buildings for almost immediate admission into the United States.

There is no name for this port handoff operation, which a November Center for Immigration Studies report revealed at length in Mexicali, Mexico, and no major American media outlet has reported its existence.

Until confirming it now as “Pillar 2” of its new 6-pillar plan, DHS had never previously announced nor advertised it.

But now “Pillar 2” calls for DHS to expand the use of these port handoff operations to “mitigate potential overcrowding” in border towns of the sort that drew intense negative international media coverage in September 2021 when 17,000 mostly Haitians suddenly formed a vast, fetid encampment under the international bridge in Del Rio, Texas.

The document describes it this way:

“CBP also developed capability within the CBP One mobile application to support advanced information submission and appointment scheduling at Ports of Entry (POEs) by noncitizens. This lawful process will increase the capacity of CBP to process intending asylum seekers at POEs after the lifting of the Title 42 public health order.”

See the CIS written and video reports “Legalizing Border Crossing for All: The Next Stage of Biden’s Migration Crisis.

The Center for Immigration Studies gained unfettered access to one of these escort handoff operations in Mexicali, Mexico where municipal officials given US passwords to access the CBP One portal twice a day input the names of 100 or so immigrants rather mysteriously chosen for US “humanitarian paroles” while still in Mexico. The center interviewed the managers of four different shelters in Tijuana and Mexicali that were part of rapidly expanding system of shelters feeding untold thousands of Mexicans, Hondurans, Salvadorans, Guatemalans, Russians, Afghans, Africans and many other nationalities into the port handoffs.

Helping the applicants to quickly assemble U.S.-required documentation were International non-governmental organizations of all stripes, American immigration lawyers and law students, psychologists, and the United Nations International Organization for Migration.

Much of the DHS document comes across as raw political posturing and message framing for the coming onslaught. It is part blame-deflection for administration policies that triggered the historic mass migration crisis on Biden’s inauguration day (smugglers are spreading disinformation amid global instability fueling the highest levels of mass migration since World War II), and part political posturing (“DHS has effectively managed” the border”).

One of the port handoff operation’s side benefits in the service of these political considerations, of course, is that news drones flying overhead can’t record it happening inside closed shelters and government buildings. Also, none of the thousands who get admitted at ports of entry will be counted among the monthly and annual politically problematic Border Patrol “apprehensions” of illegal border crossers in the brush between ports because, technically, they have been “legalized” to cross at ports.

More problematic for the Biden administration in the political calculus of the coming border management challenge, since DHS now confirms it is counting on the escort-handoff operation is that some experts question the legality of it doling out of “humanitarian parole” status. That comes from the administration’s creative interpretation of an authority granted in the Immigration and Naturalization Act but only on a narrow case-by-case basis.

Humanitarian paroles are not supposed to be handed out in mass numbers to large categories of immigrants, said Elizabeth Jacobs, a CIS fellow and former U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services official, when the escort hand-off program was described in November.

“Humanitarian parole was never intended to be used this way,” Jacobs said. “If these accounts are true, the United States government is acting directly in conflict with the limits and procedures established under federal law,” Jacobs said. “Escorting inadmissible aliens into the United States for the sole purpose of granting these aliens work authorization is a blatant abdication of DHS’s responsibility to uphold federal immigration law.”

Unless or until it is pointedly challenged, this secretive escort handoff operation referenced in the DHS plan’s “Pillar 2,” as revealed by CIS in its November report, is going to form a foundation of this the next new face of the Biden border crisis.



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Todd Bensman

Todd Bensman is Senior National Security Fellow for the Center for Immigration Studies, a 9-year counterterrorism intelligence manager, and 23-year journalist