EXCLUSIVE: In the latest move by the Biden administration to cope with a border crisis that has overwhelmed authorities, the Department of Homeland Security is looking to increase the number of migrants allowed to be released into the U.S. via an alternative to the detention program.
Internal DHS communications reviewed by Fox News show that the department is developing plans to make the Alternatives to Detention (ATD) program more efficient, because increasing the number of migrants enrolled in the program is becoming a priority for the department.
The ATD program, which started in 2004, involves varying degrees of supervision for people who are going through immigration proceedings and do not have legal status. According to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement website, ATD can include methods from check-ins at local ICE centers to GPS monitoring and home visits, depending on the immigrant and their background, criminal history and other factors.
"The Biden administration has made it clear that the border is not open," a DHS spokesperson told Fox News. "Our policy is to expel single adults and families. In situations where individuals cannot be expelled, they are placed into removal proceedings and a custody determination is made, which could result in an Alternative to Detention program."
The communications reviewed by Fox News indicate that DHS will be engaging in discussions with ICE to make plans for what will be required. But migrants have recently been released without Notices to Appear in court, just notices to appear at their local ICE offices.
The Biden administration has been facing a dramatic surge in migrants at the border, with more than 172,000 encounters in March alone -- including a historic number of unaccompanied children.
While many family units and single adults are being expelled via Title 42 health protections – which allow the U.S. to remove migrants, often within hours, due to the COVID-19 pandemic – Mexico has refused to take family units with tender-age children and the Biden administration is not applying Title 42 to unaccompanied children.
This has led to a number of migrant families being released into the U.S., a move which has sparked significant pushback from Republicans — they blame the Biden administration for fueling the crisis by rolling back Trump-era policies like the Migrant Protection Protocol (MPP.)
The administration has described the situation as a "challenge" and has emphasized that Title 42 is being applied to most migrants encountered at the border, while blaming the Trump administration for dismantling legal migration pathways to asylum and implementing what it describes as cruel immigration policies.
Increasing ATD enrollments is one of a number of developments the administration has taken. Fox News confirmed on Thursday that Health and Human Services (HHS) is paying for adult sponsors to travel to collect unaccompanied children. Meanwhile, ICE is using hotels to temporarily shelter migrant families.