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ICE preparing contingencies for mass migration events

Mariel boatlift

Looking back at the mid-1990s influx of thousands of  Haitians and Cubans into South Florida, and even further back to the Mariel Boatlift that saw an influx of thousands more, the Department of Homeland Security wants a plan to deal with sudden mass migrations of immigrants to the U.S.

 DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano, according to a statement by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, recently directed ICE to develop a national-level mass migration plan. The plan will outline how to address the health care, sheltering, processing, transition and disposition of large numbers of undocumented individuals who might arrive in the U.S. as the result of a mass migration, said ICE on Dec. 13.

ICE's immigration enforcement authorities, said the agency, have deep experience in dealing with large numbers of people. It houses almost 33,000 detainees on a daily basis in the U.S. where they await deportation or other legal action.  

ICE said while the mass migration plan is a preventative measure, it is part of DHS' ongoing contingency planning for possible events that could affect national security. It falls under the new Presidential Policy Directive on National Preparedness, said ICE

ICE is currently working with several other agencies, including the Department of Justice, Department of Defense, Department of State and Health and Human Services on the plant. The agencies developed three primary goals. One is to build a common understanding of the task, scope, planning organization, processes and milestones that should be pursued. Another is to educate the organizations involved in the plan about mass migration issues through a formal threat analysis and historical review of past events. The third is t assign roles and tasks for the planning event, said ICE.

Gary Mead, executive associate director for ICE's Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO), and Richard M. Chavez, director of the Office of Operations Coordination and Planning for DHS, have both stressed the importance of the plan and emphasized the complexity of the challenges, as well as the need for broad-based collaboration among all the agencies who have a stake in the domestic mass migration issue.

"It's really all about preparedness," said Mike Webster, acting unit chief for the ICE ERO Incident Response Unit. "The most important thing we can do is give our employees the tools they need to succeed at their job."