The Border Needs Increased Surge Capacity to Address Migration Emergencies in Immigration

Fact: The U.S. immigration system has a capacity problem, and current border enforcement policy can’t handle migrant surges caused by humanitarian crises.

History Shows that We Can Do Better Preparing For Humanitarian Crises

Our response to Cuban and Haitian asylum seekers in 1980? Deterrence.

Haitian asylum seekers in 1991? Deterrence.

Central American children in 2014? Deterrence.

There is a pattern here: the United States does not do well at preparing for migration crises and routinely responds to influxes of humanitarian flows by blocking asylum seekers from reaching the border, ramping up detention, and increasing expedited removals. But with every crisis, the numbers fail to fall, resources at the border are strained, and the migrants themselves face humanitarian concerns in custody.

As Venezuela and Nicaragua host increasing levels of political turmoil and violence, we must prepare for continuing humanitarian surges from Latin America. We cannot use the same one-dimensional deterrence methods we have relied on for decades.

We need a flexible, nimble response plan to adjust to dramatic shifts in migrant flows at the U.S.-Mexico border.

An Increased Surge Capacity Would Benefit Both Humanitarian Aid and Border Security

Influxes of humanitarian migrants with complex asylum claims strain the capacity of border officials and immigration courts alike. Border infrastructure is set up to receive majority single, male, economic migrants from Mexico, not the increasing number of families and unaccompanied children.

Increasing deterrence while ignoring the facts on the ground is not a strategic use of resources. We need to:

• Establish protocols to rapidly shift asylum resources to the border;
• Hire more immigration judges and increase as needed for surges; and
• Maintain programs to strengthen human security in the countries migrants are fleeing.


Read more about how border security and humanitarian aid would benefit from increased surge capacity.