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Amid border surge, Biden admin plans to send migrants to cities deeper inside U.S., starting with L.A., say documents

The Department of Homeland Security is planning to transport migrants awaiting immigration proceedings from U.S. cities along the southern border further into the interior of the country, beginning with Los Angeles in the coming weeks, according to internal documents obtained by NBC News. 

The plan would alleviate overcrowding along the border where record high numbers of border crossers have overwhelmed the capacity of local shelters in some cities, at times leading Customs and Border Protection to release migrants on the street to fend for themselves.

Typically, migrants who are allowed to stay in the country and make asylum claims are released to shelters run by religious and non-governmental organizations after they are released from CBP custody. From there, the migrants pay for flights and bus transportation to cities where they’ll go before immigration judges who will rule on their asylum claims.

The new model would use federal funds to send migrants to shelters in cities further inside the country before they go to their final destinations. Besides Los Angeles, cities where they will be sent include Albuquerque, Houston and Dallas. DHS is working with shelters in each of those cities in advance of moving migrants. The agency’s Southwest Border Coordination Center, which combines officials from FEMA, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, CBP and others, is coordinating the effort. 

The ‘Abbott plan’

Internally, DHS officials have jokingly referred to the model as the “Abbott plan,” one official said, referring to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s decision to bus migrants from Texas to Washington, D.C., in an effort to bring the current migrant surge to the feet of the nation’s political leaders. 

Many migrants have accepted the free 30-hour ride to Washington as a means to get closer to final destinations on the East Coast. Now, the official said, DHS is taking a page from Abbott’s book and paying for buses and flights itself in order to alleviate overcrowding.

A DHS spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.

Though a Covid-19 public health order known as Title 42 that has barred many asylum seekers since 2020 is still in place, fewer than 50 percent of migrants were expelled under that order in April, the last month for which data is available. That month CBP encountered migrants 234,088 times, a record high, though some migrants attempted to cross more than once.

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