Biden Administration, CDC to Rescind Title 42 Migrant Expulsion Policy
WASHINGTON — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s public health authority Title 42 will be terminated on May 23, the health agency announced on Friday.
The move comes after the Biden administration had previously defended its continuation of the policy from the Trump administration in court, as previously reported in The Well News. Under former President Donald Trump, the policy was invoked to rapidly expel migrants encountered at the southern border and effectively bars individuals from seeking asylum without due process.
“We welcome the CDC’s long-overdue decision to terminate this order and look forward to the permanent end to this Trump-era policy, which the Biden administration has disturbingly used to harm well over a million people, especially people of color,” Shaw Drake, staff attorney and policy counsel for border and immigrants’ rights at the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, said in a written statement.
“All people have the right to seek protection in the United States from violence and danger, and everyone deserves for their claims to be heard. Expulsions under Title 42 were never based on public health — they were simply an excuse to deny those facing danger access to protection in this country,” Drake continued.
Immigration advocates had long criticized the Biden administration’s use of the public health authority, arguing that it infringes on migrants’ unalienable human rights and violated international law that compels countries to process asylum claims. The policy had been extended nine times under the Biden administration.
Immigrant rights organizations had previously hit an impasse in negotiations with the Biden administration to discontinue Title 42, leading to its reinstatement last September and the mass expulsion of thousands of migrants mostly from Haiti from a border encampment near Del Rio, Texas, The Well News previously reported.
Some lawmakers, however, disapproved of the decision to rescind Title 42. Notably, centrist Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., admonished the end of the policy after calling on the administration to permanentize Title 42 earlier this week.
“Today’s announcement by the CDC and the Biden administration is a frightening decision,” Manchin said in a written statement. “Title 42 has been an essential tool in combating the spread of COVID-19 and controlling the influx of migrants at our southern border.
“We are already facing an unprecedented increase in migrants this year, and that will only get worse if the administration ends the Title 42 policy,” Manchin continued. “We are nowhere near prepared to deal with that influx. Until we have comprehensive, bipartisan immigration reform that commits to securing our borders and providing a pathway to citizenship for qualified immigrants, Title 42 must stay in place.”
Manchin warned CDC Director Rochelle Walensky in a letter on March 28 not to “throw caution to the wind” just as the highly transmissible omicron subvariant of COVID-19 emerged as the dominant strain in the U.S.
Migrant encounters at the southern border reached an all-time high of 1.7 million people in 2021 and Customs and Border Patrol has experienced more than 838,000 migrant encounters so far this year, according to data published by the Department of Homeland Security. White House Communications Director Kate Bedingfield clarified on Thursday that “most individuals” who cross the border without legal authorization will be placed into removal proceedings if they are unable to establish a legal basis to remain in the country.
“The decision by the CDC to revoke Title 42 public health authority is another devastating blow to the historic border security crisis that has defined the Biden administration,” Chad Wolf, executive director of the America First Policy Institute and former acting secretary of Homeland Security, said in a written statement. “Since the administration has failed to implement any meaningful strategy to curtail the border crisis, this decision will further undermine border security and compromise the public health considerations of the American people.”
In January, epidemiologists and public health experts from Columbia University and Johns Hopkins University urged the Biden administration to end the policy in a release, describing the public health authority as “scientifically baseless” and noting it was not an “evidence-based” response to the pandemic.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia issued a unanimous ruling in a case brought by the ACLU in early March that allowed expulsions to continue under Title 42 as long as migrants were brought “to places where they will not be persecuted or tortured.” Religious leaders with the Interfaith Immigration Coalition issued statements on Friday welcoming the decision to terminate Title 42.
“We are relieved to hear that the Biden administration finally plans to end Title 42 expulsions,” Susan Gunn, director of the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, said in a written statement. “We pray this decision is part of a larger effort to restore the asylum system to allow fair processing of migrants and asylum seekers. The migrants arriving at our southern border are precious children of God with unalienable human dignity. Forced to make impossible decisions to protect their families, they have been ignored for too long.
“We call for robust support for border communities that will be the first responders as Title 42 is wound down and for a wider network of welcome for migrants in asylum proceedings throughout the country,” Gunn continued. “We call for attention to the root causes of migration so that families have the choice to stay home.”
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