The Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general recently issued a report finding a need for improvement in the way Customs and Border Protection (CBP) plans for temporary and permanent detention facilities along the Southwest border.

The agency has improved its response to migrant surges by adding temporary facilities, but it has focused on short-term fixes, not long-term solutions. Moreover, CBP did not consider alternatives before turning to the addition of more temporary facilities.

The migrants in these surges have not gone through the screening processes required for immigrant and visitors visas, which increases the need for effective screening at the border processing centers.

The report concluded that CBP may not be prepared for future migrant surges or for a higher steady state of migrants in custody.

This is not a new problem. The rationale for the Title 42 order was to avoid holding migrants in the crowded CBP processing facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

New York City’s health commissioner, Dr. Ashwin Vasan, says the migrants without visas that the administration is releasing into the country are bringing other contagious diseases into the country now.

The processing centers are still crowded. In May 2023, Congressman Tony Gonzales (R-Texas) shared a video of migrants standing amid makeshift beds at the processing center he visited. It was handling about 6,000 migrants despite its maximum capacity of 1,000.

President Biden knew his border policies could cause an increase in the number of migrants seeking admission without visas. At a press conference a month before he started his presidency, he said he would not be able to roll back the previous administration’s restrictive border policies right away. “The last thing we need is to say we’re going to stop immediately […] and then end up with 2 million people on our border.”

Nevertheless, he reversed key policies of the previous administration a few hours after taking the oath of office. His reversals included ending the travel ban, ramping down the remain in Mexico program, and revoking an interior enforcement executive order.

The Border Patrol apprehended more than 1.6 million illegal border crossers in the first fiscal year of Biden’s presidency. This was the highest number of illegal crossings recorded along the Southwest border in any fiscal year since the government began tracking such entries.

Too little, too late


Published originally on The Hill.

Nolan Rappaport was detailed to the House Judiciary Committee as an Executive Branch Immigration Law Expert for three years. He subsequently served as an immigration counsel for the Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security and Claims for four years. Prior to working on the Judiciary Committee, he wrote decisions for the Board of Immigration Appeals for 20 years. Follow him at