EXCLUSIVE: The Department of Homeland Security is forcing asylum officers to work both weekend days this week in an effort to deal with the surge of migrants at the southern border seeking to claim asylum in the U.S. as the Title 42 public health order ends, Fox News Digital has learned.
The Friday morning memo, sent out by the associate director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)’ Refugee, Asylum and International Operations (RAIO) and seen by Fox News Digital, says that employees had been informed Thursday of the need for them to work at least one day this weekend — and now the agency is going a step further.
“Developments emerging over the course of the day made clear that more resources are needed, and we must take immediate steps to increase the number of staff available on both Saturday and Sunday to meet the need,” it says.
“In order to ensure full operational readiness, I must now ask that all Asylum Division employees, with limited exception, work both Saturday and Sunday this weekend,” Associate Director Ted Kim says.
The memo says that the only positions exempted will be those who do not provide direct support to “credible fear” process — in which migrants seeking to claim asylum first establish that they have a credible fear of persecution if returned to their home country.
The unusual mandate comes hours after the Title 42 public health order at the southern border ended along with the COVID-19 national emergency on Thursday night. The order has been in place since March 2020 and allowed for the rapid expulsion of migrants at the southern border.
The expiration had brought expectations of a mammoth surge at the border as migrants believe they are more likely to be admitted to the U.S. — a claim that DHS has repeatedly disputed.
Border Patrol agents encountered over 10,000 migrants a day for at least three days this week so far, with multiple sectors facing overcapacity. The agency has sought to release migrants into the interior without court dates, but has been blocked by a court order handed down late Thursday.
The administration has said it will lean into traditional methods of processing under Title 8, while also implementing a new asylum rule that would presume migrants to be ineligible for asylum if they entered illegally and have failed to claim asylum at a country through which they have already passed.It has also highlighted its expansion of legal pathways and creation of processing centers through Latin America. It has also surged personnel, including troops, to the border.
The memo to USCIS employees told those affected that they have until 12pm local time to submit a request for an exemption and provide “sufficient information to demonstrate that the situation is exceptional.” It says responses will be provided by 3pm. USCIS did not respond to a request for comment from Fox News Digital.
“I am aware this is a huge ask and one I do not take lightly, and it will undoubtedly be a major disruption for many of you. While the request is difficult, it is necessary to ensure the agency can meet its humanitarian obligations,” Kim says, adding that he too will be working both days.
The memo comes as officials have warned that the U.S. could face chaotic scenes at the border as the order drops, with DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas warning on Thursday that it could take time for the effects of the policies it has put in place to be seen.
“I have said for months and months that the challenge at the border is and is going to be very difficult. And we have spoken repeatedly about the fact that that difficulty may actually only increase at this time of transition,” Mayorkas said in a White House briefing.
“It is going to take a period of time for our approach to actually gain traction and show results,” he warned.