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Biden Faces Challenge From Surge of Migrants at the Border

Mr. Biden, briefed on the issue last week, deployed his top administration officials to tour the facilities at the border this weekend. The administration has made disaster aid funding available to border communities, has redirected agents from the northern border to the southern border and is considering a pilot program that would place health officials at border facilities to speed up children’s search for a sponsor.

Anticipating the arrival of even more children at the border, the administration directed the shelters on Friday to return to their full capacity despite the pandemic.

Representative Bennie Thompson, the Mississippi Democrat who leads the House Homeland Security Committee, said Alejandro N. Mayorkas, the homeland security secretary, told him in a call last Friday that the administration was rushing to find more space for the children. “You can’t just say we don’t have space anymore,” Mr. Thompson said. “You have to start looking.”

During the campaign, Mr. Biden backed a shift away from detaining migrants and instead releasing them into the United States and tracking them with an ankle monitor or periodic phone calls while their immigration cases are processed. The administration has drafted a plan that would eventually release families from long-term detention facilities within 72 hours.

But for now, using the same pandemic rule the Trump administration did, the Biden administration has continued to turn away most migrants other than unaccompanied children.

And almost as soon as Mr. Biden came into office, top administration officials publicly sought to discourage migrants from traveling north, saying it would take time to unravel Mr. Trump’s policies. Previous public messaging campaigns, including standing up billboards in Central America to encourage migrants to stay home, have failed.

“Realistically, one is addressing a population of people that are desperate,” Mr. Mayorkas said in an interview. “It is not going to work 100 percent, but if it is effective at all, that is of momentous importance not only to what we are trying to do but for the well being of the people.”


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