The White House is calling for a fix to the "broken immigration system" as the Biden administration faces pressure from both Democrats and Republicans over its decision to end Title 42.
The Biden administration announced this month that it will end Title 42, which has been used since March 2020 to expel a majority of migrants at the border, on May 23. The decision sparked concerns from both Republicans and Democrats that ending the order could lead to an overwhelming surge at the border.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Monday said it is "important to remember" that Title 42 "is not an immigration authority" or "an immigration plan."
"There is no question we have a broken immigration system," Psaki said Monday. "There’s more we need to do. We’ve been saying that from the first day the president took office, and anyone who wants to work on that, Democrats, Republicans, anyone, how we can put smarter security in place, how we can have an asylum processing system that works, we would love to do that."
Under Title 42, a White House official told Fox News that "a significant percentage of migrants have re-attempted to enter the United States illegally following their rapid expulsions because they were not placed in immigration proceedings, not processed through our system, and ultimately faced no consequences for attempting to re-enter the country illegally."
The White House cited February numbers, noting that in February, under the Title 42 order, more than 90,000 individuals were expelled for attempting to cross the border, and warned that they have "no legal barrier to trying again and again."
"Once Title 42 is lifted—on May 23rd—if these people come to the border, they have no legal basis to remain, they will be removed, and if they try again, they will be committing a crime," the official told Fox News.
Looking ahead beyond the expiration of the order, the official said the Biden administration’s "goal" will be to process migrants "in a safe and orderly manner" in "close coordination" with border communities, and "in accordance with the laws of the United States."
The official said that includes "expeditiously removing those who do not qualify to remain in the United States."
"So, let me be clear -- individuals who cross the border without legal authorization will be promptly placed into removal proceedings and, if unable to establish a legal basis to remain in the United States, will be expeditiously removed, and returned to their country of origin," the official added.
The official told Fox News that the White House believes that asylum and other legal migration pathways "should remain available to those seeking protections," and stressed that the administration is "working to expand legal pathways" so that people don’t make the "treacherous journey" to the border.
"But those not seeking protection, or who don’t qualify, will be promptly removed to their countries of origin," the official said.
The official added that the eventual lifting of Title 42 "is a return" to the "standard," in which individuals will be "processed and placed in proceedings," and those not seeking protection who do not qualify will be "promptly removed to their countries of origin," and face "other long-term immigration consequences."
There were more than 220,000 migrant encounters in March, of which 50% were expelled under Title 42, according to Customs and Border Protection (CBP) data released last week. That number, the highest number during Biden’s presidency so far, is expected to rise in the months ahead, particularly if the plan to lift Title 42 remains.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has said that it has been planning for up to 18,000 encounters a day.
Republicans have slammed the Biden administration for its plans to lift the order for months, but more Democrats have been coming out against the decision, saying there needs to be a plan in place.
Sens. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., Jon Tester, D-Mont., Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Maggie Hassan, D-N.H. have all signed onto legislation that would extend Title 42 by 60 days and require DHS to come up with a plan to deal with a post-Title 42 influx.
Those Democrats have spoken out about the bill before. Manchin called the move to end Title 42 "frightening." Tester, earlier this month, said he is "strongly opposed" to the move, while Hassan said that ending the order "will likely lead to a migrant surge that the administration does not appear to be ready for."
"I warned the administration about this months and months ago, and they still don't have an adequate plan," Kelly told Fox News Digital last week. "They say they are working on it. My guess is that we’ll get to May 23, there probably is not going to be an adequate plan in place and, if that's the case, I don't think we should lift Title 42."
In addition, a spokesperson for Florida Democratic Rep. Val Demings told Politico on Monday "Until there is a plan to put more boots on the ground and support our law enforcement officers at the border, Chief Demings does not support lifting Title 42."
On Monday, Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., also called for a delay.
"Unless we have a well-thought-out plan, I think it is something that should be revisited and perhaps delayed. I’m going to defer judgment on that until I give the administration the opportunity to fully articulate what that plan is. But I share … concerns of some of my colleagues," Peters told a small group of reporters, according to the Hill.
Senate Republicans, meanwhile, are trying to keep Title 42 from lifting in the first place, using a COVID-19 funding bill as the vehicle. They already delayed the consideration of the $10 billion compromise legislation.
And Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and his deputies say they'll keep up a filibuster of the coronavirus funds until Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., lets them vote on an amendment that would keep Title 42 in place.
"What is happening right now is they're essentially holding hostage funding for COVID. And we are going to run out of funding," Psaki said of the stakes of the standoff.
"We are already running out of funding for key programs. So our issue here is let's move forward with the COVID funding," she added. "We're happy to have a discussion about the broken immigration system. We agree it's broken. Let's work together on addressing that."
Fox News' Tyler Olson contributed to this report.