By Jason Lange
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. lawmakers, both Republicans and Democrats, on Sunday pressed Democratic President Joe Biden to take action to manage an expected wave of asylum seekers at America’s southern border when COVID-era restrictions are set to end this week.
U.S. border cities are bracing for an influx of asylum seekers after a U.S. judge in November moved to strike down a policy enacted by the Trump administration in 2020 that has allowed migration authorities to rapidly send asylum seekers back to Mexico and other countries.
The policy, known as Title 42, is due to end on Dec. 21, and thousands of asylum seekers have been lining up at the U.S.-Mexico border ahead of the easing of restrictions.
On Saturday, the west Texas border city of El Paso declared a state of emergency, citing hundreds of migrants sleeping on the streets in cold temperatures and the thousands being apprehended every day.
“It’s a very dire situation,” U.S. Representative Tony Gonzales of Texas, a Republican, told CBS’s “Face the Nation”.
Gonzales called on Biden to revive past policies that tried to speed up asylum review and expedite deportations.
U.S. Representative Henry Cuellar, a Democrat who also represents Texas, urged Biden to enact a policy requiring people to only request asylum at official border crossing points.
“And if they don’t follow that pathway they need to go back,” Cuellar told “Face the Nation”.
Republicans made calls for tighter immigration policies a key message in their 2022 midterm election campaigns.
After winning a narrow majority in the U.S. House of Representatives in November, some Republican lawmakers are calling for the impeachment of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas for what they see as a failure of border policy under Biden.
One of the loudest Republican voices for tighter border policy, Governor Greg Abbott of Texas, on Sunday told ABC news the end of Title 42 would bring “total chaos.”
While Gonzales, the Republican lawmaker, said America was poised to receive a “hurricane of migrants,” the Biden administration has pushed back at arguments that ending Title 42 amounted to an opening of U.S. borders to illegal immigrants.
“These aren’t people who are attempting to illegally cross the border,” Keisha Lance Bottoms, a White House aide, said on “Face the Nation”. “These are people who are presenting themselves, asking that they be processed in accordance with the laws of the United States.”
Still, pressure appeared to be growing on the Biden administration, even within his own party. U.S. Senator Joe Manchin, a conservative Democrat, also appearing on “Face the Nation,” urged Biden to ask for an extension of Title 42.
“The president needs to find a way,” Manchin said.
(Reporting by Jason Lange; Editing by Mary Milliken and Bill Berkrot)