Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Monday begged for volunteers from agencies within his department to rush to the border to help with an “overwhelming” surge of illegal immigrants.
In an email to department employees, Mr. Mayorkas said he was copying an idea the Trump administration used in 2019, during the last surge.
The email is another indication that despite public pronouncements to the contrary, the Biden administration believes it is facing a crisis at the border.
“Today I activated the Volunteer Force to support Customs and Border Protection (CBP) as they face a surge in migration along the Southwest Border,” Mr. Mayorkas wrote in his note.
He pointed to the 900 employees who stepped forward in 2019 and asked for a similar effort.
“I also realize these are uncertain times and being away from home may be concerning. But today your colleagues need assistance carrying out their mission to help others, and DHS is going to support you while deployed,” Mr. Mayorkas wrote.
He didn’t say exactly what that meant but told employees “your health and wellbeing will remain priorities.”
“It is astonishing that instead of actually trying to stop the surge, the secretary of Homeland Security is focused on bringing in volunteers under a Trump program to manage it,” said Rosemary Jenks, vice president at NumbersUSA, which advocates for stricter immigration limits.
The Department of Homeland Security didn’t respond to a request for comment on the duties the volunteers would perform.
In 2019, they were involved in helping process and care for migrants, including driving the vans that transported them from remote locations to Border Patrol stations, performing medical assessments, and making hospital runs.
The 2019 effort drew criticism from Democrats including Sen. Gary Peters of Michigan, who called it “short-sighted” and warned of “serious ripple effects across the country” as department employees weren’t available for their usual jobs.
Mr. Peters, now the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, didn’t respond Monday to a request for comment.
Mr. Mayorkas visited the border over the weekend with other top officials, at the directive of President Biden, who is desperate to figure out ways to manage a border surge most analysts say he created by overturning Trump policies without having a replacement policy ready to go.
Mr. Mayorkas has declined to label the new rush of migrants a “crisis,” instead calling it a challenge.
Officials on the border, though, say there’s no doubt that what they’re seeing is a crisis.
From Texas to Arizona, Border Patrol agents say they have their hands full. While some illegal immigrants are pushed back into Mexico under a coronavirus health order, many illegal immigrant families are being processed and released directly into communities.
In Harlingen, Texas, they’re being delivered to the local homeless shelter.
In Gila Bend, Arizona, Mayor Tommy Chris Riggs said in a Facebook message to town residents that Homeland Security soon will begin dropping off migrants in their jurisdiction.
The drops could be anywhere from 10 to “well over 1,000” people, Mr. Riggs said.
“Gila Bend is simply not equipped to handle this type of influx,” he said.
He said he has reached out to federal officials to find out what help they can provide, but said no funding has been offered and he has received no reply from those he contacted.
In Wilcox, Arizona, migrants will be released at a local Texaco, where they can buy bus tickets and head deeper into the U.S.
• Stephen Dinan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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