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Oversight Republicans warn DHS of impending border health crisis, blame ‘reckless’ Biden policies

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EXCLUSIVE: Republicans on the House Oversight Committee are sounding the alarm to the Biden administration about an impending health crisis at the southern border — warning that “reckless” policies and rhetoric from President Biden are fueling it.

“The Biden administration’s policies limiting immigration enforcement and weakening border security, coupled with its proposal to grant amnesty to illegal immigrants, are signaling to the world that our immigration laws can be be violated with little, if any, consequence,” Ranking Member James Comer and 18 Oversight Committee members wrote in a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

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“We are particularly concerned that the Biden administration’s actions could soon lead to a health crisis at the border, and surrounding communities, causing widespread COVID-19 infections and fatalities,” they say.

Since taking office, Biden has stopped the construction of the wall at the southern border, moved to end the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) that keep migrants in Mexico and attempted to impose a 100-day pause on deportations — although this has been blocked in response to a lawsuit. He also signed an order revoking then-President Trump’s order ending the so-called “catch and release” policy.

The lawmakers note that a November court injunction prevented Title 42 expulsions — by which illegal immigrants caught at the border can be swiftly returned for public health reasons — from being applied to unaccompanied children, and the Biden administration subsequently carved out an exception for UACs.

The Republicans also point to the bill unveiled by Biden and congressional Democrats this week that would grant a pathway to citizenship to millions of illegal immigrants and roll back asylum restrictions.

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“In addition to his reckless policies and executive actions, President Biden’s rhetoric relating to amnesty for millions of illegal aliens and gutting interior enforcement priorities is leading to a perfect storm on the southwest border,” the lawmakers write. “Without a radically different approach, a health, security, and humanitarian crisis is inevitable.”

The administration recently opened an overflow facility for migrant children in Texas as officers on the ground face an increase in migration across the border. Meanwhile Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has been forced to release migrants into the U.S. interior — reviving the “catch and release” policy President Donald Trump sought to end.

CBP said three factors led to the decision to release illegal immigrant families: an increase of migrant traffic, specifically families from Central America and unaccompanied children; Mexico’s refusal to accept additional families with children under age 12 in areas where migrants camps grow increasingly large, overwhelming the shelter and services; and COVID-19, which has severely reduced Border Patrol detention and transport capacity.

The Republican lawmakers warned that the number of families and unaccompanied children will “soon overwhelm border facilities in the middle of a global pandemic, forcing CBP officials to resort to widespread catch and release of unlawfully present individuals and families into the interior of the country.”

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The letter outlines how they believe that would lead to a COVID-19 outbreak at ports of entry and CBP facilities, shutting them down,

“The increase in illegal immigration at the southern border presents a risk not only to Border Patrol agents apprehending migrants who illegally cross the border, but also to those communities into which those individuals will relocate — likely leading to widespread COVID-19 infection and fatalities.”

The lawmakers ask Mayorkas to tell them what the administration’s plan is to reduce illegal border crossings, what it is doing to stop the spread of COVID at ports, how it is seeking to stop the release of migrants into the interior, and the steps it is taking to address the situation with Mexico.

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But there is currently no sign of the administration changing course, although the White House has warned migrants that “now is not the time” to come to the U.S.

On Thursday, ICE released new guidelines that would require officers to seek pre-approval from superiors in order to detain illegal immigrants that don’t fall into three categories — just as Democrats unveiled the text of the immigration bill.

Fox News’ William LaJeunesse contributed to this report.

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