While the world’s focus is on the Russia-Ukraine war, the border crisis back in the United States has remained vastly underreported. Not because the surge of illegal immigrants has been diminishing. Quite the opposite, in fact. With almost one million illegal migrants so far arriving this fiscal year, the situation may soon become even more problematic. Today, March 30, the Biden administration will begin discussions on ending the Title 42 program that has, to date, been one of the few mitigating factors in holding back a tide of people at the southern border.
Title 42, which refuses entry of immigrants when there is a health risk, such as the COVID pandemic, has been a contentious matter since former President Donald Trump introduced it in 2020. Also allowing for the expulsion of migrants from US soil, the public health order was created by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) under Trump, and has continued into 2022, although the Biden administration has at times been reported to consider scrapping the regulation.
A number of Democrats appear to agree with Republicans that getting rid of Title 42 may be a huge mistake right now. In a letter to President Joe Biden, the Democrat senators from Arizona — Mark Kelly and Kyrsten Sinema — said it would be disastrous to end the rule:
“Given the impacts that changes to Title 42 could have on border communities, border security, and migrants, we urge your administration not to make any changes to Title 42 implementation until you are completely ready to execute and coordinate a comprehensive plan that ensures a secure, orderly, and humane process at the border.”
As many as two million immigrants have already been expelled at the northern and southwest borders under Title 42. Although most Dems are opposed to keeping the Title 42 regulation in place, some believe ending it now would hurt the Ukrainian refugees seeking asylum. That, on top of the already high number of immigrants trying to get into the United States.
In February of this year, there were 164,973 illegal immigrant encounters at the border. In comparison, the same month of 2021 had 101,099. And in February 2020, there were only 36,687 encounters. Although the numbers are not officially out for March 2022, it is estimated there have been more than 200,000 encounters, compared to 173,277 in March last year, according to Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) estimates around 25,000 migrants are already in Mexican shelters, waiting for Title 42 to end, Axios reported. Deputy Secretary John Tien has even asked employees to “consider stepping forward to support the DHS Volunteer Force” to help manage the situation on the ground. And reportedly the White House has created a Southwest Border Coordination Center (SBCC), which Axios calls “essentially a war room to coordinate an interagency response” to the crisis. The SBCC will work out of the DHS headquarters and be led by Border Patrol’s Matthew Hudak, the news source said.
The CDC is being scrutinized and said to be losing its credibility by allowing the order to stay in place. In March, the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit allowed families to sue the government in a class-action suit over Title 42. The ruling stated that it was legal to expel migrants but not to countries where they might face torture or persecution.
Section 265 of the order allows the government to bar people from entering the country during a public health emergency. But Judge Justin Walker believes the government has failed to produce justification for this law. He wrote:
“This is March 2022, not March 2020. The CDC’s 265 order looks in certain respects like a relic from an era with no vaccines, scarce testing, few therapeutics, and little certainty … We would be sensitive to declarations in the record by CDC officials testifying to the efficacy of the 265 Order. But there are none.”
Representative Veronica Escobar (D-TX) told Politico:
“It has never made sense to me as a public health policy. We know that migrants who get rapidly expelled through Title 42 don’t stop trying to get in. They just make the attempt at a different place along the border … If what we’re worried about is [COVID-19] spread, that essentially creates greater spread.”
Sergio Gonzales, executive director of the national advocacy group Immigration Hub, believes the law is just political. “The idea that Title 42 is being kept in place for anything other than a purely political decision is preposterous at this point,” he said. “How can we expect other countries in Europe to welcome refugees while keeping in place this terrible policy which completely undermines our country’s values?”
But what about the massive immigration crush at the border? Although the Biden administration claims to be working on the “root” problems by helping other countries fix their issues so their people will not want to leave, the United States is still experiencing a massive flood of migrants. Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz said on March 29 that America is on track to hit one million illegal migrants so far this fiscal year, which started in October. “Probably, in the next two or three days we’ll get over a million encounters or apprehensions along the southwest border,” he said.
“Right now Title 42 is the only policy they have to manage the volume of arrivals at the border,” explained Theresa Cardinal Brown, managing director of immigration and cross-border policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center. “If [it] were to come down suddenly, they would be required to take into custody everybody they encounter and process their asylum claims. They would have a big logistical problem on their hands.”
Ending Title 42 could see a much larger influx in migrants, adding more strain to the already overextended border patrol.
~ Read more from Kelli Ballard.