Friction between White House and DHS officials as migrant numbers rise

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According to internal documents and communications reviewed by NBC News, friction between White House Biden and senior Department of Homeland Security officials over how to handle immigration is growing, as the number of undocumented migrants crossing the border south continues to grow and as Republican governors send migrants to more democratic cities.

The White House recently hosted a series of high-level immigration meetings, where DHS officials presented options including transporting migrants to the country’s northern border with Canada to ease overcrowding at the US border. -Mexican, according to two US officials familiar with the discussions.

Some DHS officials openly expressed frustration during those meetings over the White House’s reluctance to take a page from Republican governors’ book and begin ferrying migrants to cities across the United States, according to internal communications obtained. by NBC News.

Under a plan proposed by DHS, migrants would be sent to cities such as Los Angeles, where shelters would receive advance warning to have time to prepare for the influx. The plan is designed to be less chaotic than what is currently happening in Washington, DC, New York, Chicago and Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts. Officials in those places were taken by surprise as Republican governors in Texas, Arizona and Florida sent migrants north to make a political statement.

The talks come as the number of migrants crossing the US-Mexico border nears 8,000 a day, according to data obtained by NBC News.

White House officials previously set 9,000 a day as an internal trigger to begin what they call “inland processing,” where migrants are flown or bused from the border to inland towns where shelters can care for them pending reunification with family members and possibly their dates in immigration court.

But in recent meetings between Homeland Security officials and the White House, some DHS officials pleaded for the administration to start securing planes and planning for domestic processing now, according to documents obtained by NBC News.

Homeland Security officials have expressed frustration with each other that Republicans are sending migrants to cities in an effort to wreak havoc and shape the national conversation on immigration, while White House officials have blocked DHS initiatives to send migrants to cities across the country in a more organized way. , according to internal communications.

Some areas of the border, meanwhile, have seen such high numbers of undocumented migrants in recent weeks that they have overwhelmed the resources of the Border Patrol and local charities. In El Paso, Texas, for example, nearly 9,000 migrants have been released from bus stations because local shelters lack the capacity to house them until they can arrange their own transportation. Typically, shelters work with migrants and their family members to ensure that their bus or plane tickets are purchased and that they have the means and directions to get to their final destinations in the States. -United.

Covid restrictions under Title 42, which were imposed shortly after the start of the pandemic in 2020, remain in place and more than one million migrants have been deported to Mexico or their countries of origin. However, the most common nationality among newcomers to El Paso is Venezuelan. Venezuela has resisted the recapture of its migrants, and Mexico is reluctant to accept Venezuelans deported from the United States, leaving the United States to make decisions about their fate.

The White House, DHS and Customs and Border Protection did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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