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Southern Border Crossings Under the Microscope on Capitol Hill

Migrants Crossing the Rio Grande River into the U.S. (AP Photo)

WASHINGTON - This year alone, there have already been two million illegal crossings at the U.S. southern border.  

Biden administration officials were in the hot seat again Thursday, answering congressional lawmakers' questions.

It was the second day of hearings before the Senate Homeland Security Committee following DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas' testimony Wednesday.

An effort to get answers about chaos at the southern border brought all the key agencies responsible for its enforcement, including Customs, Border Patrol, and Homeland Security. Lawmakers are demanding answers about why there's no progress in controlling the record numbers of migrants crossing illegally into the United States. 

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According to Homeland Security statistics, Border Patrol officers apprehend about 7,000 migrants each day.  That number is expected to more than double if and when Title 42, a public health order that prevents migrants from seeking asylum, is lifted.

Mayorkas has struggled to keep a lid on the political uproar during these hearings.

"We are already surging personnel resources, transportation resources to the border. We understand the need to be already in place when Title 42 comes to an end so that work is well underway," he said.

The Biden administration's plan post-Title 42 would increase personnel in the border region, use temporary facilities to expand detention capacity, and aggressively deploy what's known as expedited removal to deport those migrants not eligible for asylum. 

One specific concern centers on an expected surge of unaccompanied minors entering the states.

"We have contingency plans to build capacity as needed and deploy additional case management supports," said Asst. Secretary at Health and Human Services January Contreras. 

"We've just been nibbling around the edges. This is surreal the last two days what we've been talking about here. Nothing that's going to fix the problem until we actually talk about the root cause," said Sen.Ron Johnson (R-WI).

Advocates for asylum-seekers support ending the rule, which they say endangers those fleeing persecution back home and violates rights to seek protection under US law and the international treaty. Border states challenging the administration maintain the U.S. is not ready for the likely rush of humanity resulting from the rule's end, straining public services.

It's possible a federal court could soon order the government to reverse course and halt plans to lift Title 42 later this month because of lawsuits filed by Republican-led states.

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