White House preparing "Ellis Island style" rapid processing centers at border to cope with huge migrant surge

It’s surprising to me how little attention comparatively this story has gotten so far within righty media, particularly major righty media like Fox. It’s out there, but it pales by comparison to the “canceling” of Dr. Seuss.

Maybe it’s as simple as the fact that the new border crisis isn’t quite “ripe.” It’s already concerning, but it’s projected to get much — much — worse by spring. We’re not there yet but the day is coming when this will be one of three urgent policy crises faced by the Biden White House.

In fact, if vaccinations keep increasing at the current pace and if the Dems’ COVID relief bill is as much of a shot in the arm for the economy as they expect, this may be *the* crisis that consumes Team Joe in May and June.

And it’s one of their own making, of course.

Fresh internal documents from the Department of Health and Human Services show how quickly the number of child migrants crossing the border is overwhelming the administration’s stretched resources.

Driving the news: In the week ending March 1, the Border Patrol referred to HHS custody an average of 321 children per day, according to documents obtained by Axios. That’s up from a weekly average of 203 in late January and early February — and just 47 per day during the first week of January.

The same documents, dated Tuesday, say the shelter system is at 94% occupancy and expected to reach its maximum this month.

Trump’s administration used pandemic regulations to justify immediately turning away adults and unaccompanied children at the border. Biden’s administration has kept that rule for single adults — but rescinded it for kids. Who could have guessed that that might incentivize more parents from Mexico and Central America to try to send their children into the United States?

Families are still coming too, and Team Joe and the wider Democratic Party have made clear that they’re not going to separate those families and send the parents back across the border the way Trump’s administration did. The logistical challenge with that policy is that it means you either need to find somewhere to house those families while they’re awaiting a ruling on asylum or deportation or you need to let them go in vintage catch-and-release fashion. Team Joe is going to let most of them go, it appears, as there simply isn’t enough space to warehouse all of them at existing detention facilities. In fact, WaPo reports that some of those facilities are being converted from detention centers to “processing hubs” as we speak:

On Thursday, Russell Hott, a senior official with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), notified staff of the rapid-processing plan in an email that said arrivals by unaccompanied minors and families this year “are expected to be the highest numbers observed in over 20 years.”

If U.S. border officials continue to take in more than 500 family members per day, the change in use to the family detention centers “may not be sufficient to keep pace with apprehensions,” Hott warned in his email, which was reviewed by The Post…

Officials are considering turning Berks into a women-only center, a DHS official said, while Dilley and Karnes would serve as quick-release intake facilities that would screen migrant families, check their backgrounds and release them pending an immigration court hearing. Some would enroll in “alternatives to detention,” such as ankle-monitoring programs. Families would undergo coronavirus testing and nonprofit organizations would then help them secure airplane or bus tickets to their final destinations in the United States, typically with relatives or friends.

Will they end up attending their immigration hearings or will they disappear into the U.S. once they’re out of DHS custody? *Shrug* But once again, you can imagine what sort of incentives would-be immigrants down south will glean from the news that families are being quickly released after being taken into custody. Per WaPo, some open-borders activists are frustrated that Biden is detaining any families at all, demanding to know why all of them aren’t being quickly freed. Between the logistical challenges of an expected surge of immigrants this spring and the political pressure applied by progressives, maybe they’ll eventually get their wish. Catch-and-release for everyone by May?

“The Biden administration is telling prospective illegal aliens ‘now is not the time to come,'” notes Mark Krikorian, “but those who do come are being released into the U.S. with a piece of paper and a wave goodbye. What did the White House think would happen?” What indeed? Yesterday James Carafano cited a source claiming that the Border Patrol recently encountered nearly 5,000 people trying to cross the border in a single day; under the old rules of the Obama administration, 1,000 attempted crossings in a day was considered “crisis-level.” Again, it’s expected to get much worse over the next two months.

The obvious move to ease the crisis is to reinstate Trump’s rule allowing the Border Patrol to turn away kids and their parents at the border for COVID reasons (which isn’t a pretext, by the way), but it’s impossible to imagine Biden’s pro-amnesty base tolerating that unless and until this becomes a major political liability. Which it might not: With so much public attention devoted to the vaccine program and the stimulus package, an America in “back to normal!” mode and grateful to the White House for some relief from coronavirus may help Sleepy Joe avoid a backlash. But remember this post from yesterday, speculating that Trump’s law-and-order emphasis nearly won him the election by attracting more nonwhite conservatives than Republicans typically do. A total breakdown at the border egged on by the left, with Biden unwilling or unable to stop it, will reinforce perceptions that Republicans are more serious about keeping the peace than Democrats are. We’ll see.

Update: It’s gonna be universal catch-and-release soon. Get ready:

In an exclusive interview with NBC News Thursday, Mayorkas was asked whether he agreed with a tweet President Biden made during his campaign, which said: “Children should be released from ICE detention with their parents immediately” and whether he could commit to ending family detention.

Mayorkas did not address the questions directly, instead giving a one-sentence answer: “A detention center is not where a family belongs.”