By Julia Ainsley, NBC News
WASHINGTON — The Biden administration will soon allow up to 250 “particularly vulnerable” immigrants into the U.S. each day, said a Department of Homeland Security spokesperson, an exception to the current policy that blocks most families and single adult migrants from crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.
Already, Customs and Border Protection has allowed roughly 2,000 vulnerable immigrants to enter the U.S. as they await their immigration hearings, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, which is challenging the administration in court to give all migrants that right. DHS did not comment on how many migrants have been allowed to enter due to their vulnerabilities already.
Immigrants considered particularly vulnerable include those who are ill, families with very young children or immigrants who have been threatened or attacked while they wait in Mexico. They are identified to CBP by international and non-governmental humanitarian organizations, said DHS and the ACLU.
Those will be in addition to all unaccompanied children and some families already allowed to enter the U.S. by the Biden administration. Others have been blocked under a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention authority known as Title 42 intended to stop the spread of Covid-19.
The admittance of vulnerable migrants is the result of negotiations in an ongoing lawsuit brought by the ACLU to challenge the use of Title 42.
“While these concessions will hopefully save lives, they are not a substitute for eliminating Title 42 and restoring asylum processing fully,” said Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project.
A DHS spokesperson said the administration is working to “streamline a system for identifying and lawfully processing particularly vulnerable individuals who warrant exceptions for humanitarian reasons under the Title 42 order.”
“This is done in close coordination with international and non-governmental organizations in Mexico and includes COVID-19 testing before those vulnerable individuals identified through this process are allowed to enter the country,” the spokesperson said.
Another concession by the Biden administration as part of the lawsuit, according to the ACLU, was an agreement to temporarily suspend the practice of flying immigrants who cross into the U.S. in the Rio Grande Valley region of Texas to El Paso, Texas, or San Ysidro, California, to expel them there.
“Lateral flights,” as they were called, allowed CBP to spread its resources to process immigrants away from the Rio Grande Valley, the busiest border sector for migrant traffic. While they are now suspended, DHS says the government “reserves the right to restart the lateral flights if it deems the circumstances warrant.”