“There’s a reason that we give people work permits while they are waiting for asylum, so that they can support themselves and don’t have to be depending on government assistance during that time,” said Michelle Brané, the director of migrant rights and justice at the Women’s Refugee Commission.
Fewer migrants try to cross the border now than in the early 2000s. But the demographics have shifted: Most are now families from Central America rather than single Mexicans who could be quickly deported. The sheer number of families has overwhelmed the system, and because of rules that prohibit holding children in detention for more than 20 days, some families are released into communities along the border.
More than 103,000 migrants crossed the southwestern border in March without authorization, an increase from the more than 76,000 who crossed in February. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, also known as ICE, is currently housing more than 50,000 migrants, one of the highest numbers on record, and about 5,000 more than the congressionally mandated limit of 45,274.
In 2016, the average daily population of immigrants in detention dipped to 34,376.
After the memo’s release on Monday night, Julián Castro, a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate and former Obama administration housing secretary, called the orders “truly sickening.”
“Families are fleeing violence and turmoil to seek refuge at our borders and Donald Trump wants to charge them a fee to gain asylum,” he said on Twitter.
This month, the White House took action over the rising number of border crossings when Mr. Trump forced out Ms. Nielsen, who oversaw attempts to tighten the asylum process and the administration’s family separations practice. The next day, the White House pushed out multiple other homeland security officials.
Stephen Miller, the president’s top immigration adviser, has assumed more power over shaping policies and decisions. He was behind the purge of homeland security officials and has advocated aggressive, legally dubious policies, including busing migrants to so-called sanctuary cities to retaliate against Democrats.