What They’re Saying About the End of Title 42 Expulsions
WASHINGTON — The Biden administration last week announced it will wind down the pandemic-era order known as Title 42 in late May.
Though always controversial, the decision to do away with what were, in essence, summary deportations in the name of public health, has been especially fraught given that it will happen six months before a critical midterm election.
Republicans who have called for or supported ending other pandemic-related orders, are brandishing the decision as if it were a potent election-year cudgel, and even some Democrats are saying they’re deeply concerned that summer will see a spike in migrants trying to breach the southern border of the U.S. once Title 42 is lifted.
Below are some of the comments that have been made since the administration signaled its intentions.
But first, a little context.
By March 2020, the coronavirus pandemic had become a real thing in the lives of most Americans. Offices and businesses were shutting down, many making their first awkward attempts at supporting remote work.
People were advised to stay home, and if they absolutely, positively had to be outside, they were told for the first time to wear a face mask and stay at least six feet from other human beings.
“Face masks?” many asked themselves. “I can’t even find toilet paper!”
As it happened, the public health crisis coincided with former President Donald Trump’s administration, which had already taken a hard line against illegal immigration at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Soon the president, who for years had declared he’d build a wall and have Mexico pay for it, would have another way to close the border.
On March 20, 2020, Robert Redfield, then-director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, announced the agency was invoking a World War II-era public health law — Title 42 of the U.S. Code — that authorized border officials to immediately deport migrants in order to prevent a contagious disease from spreading into the United States.
The Trump administration immediately embraced the move, saying it was vital to protecting U.S. border agents and the communities they lived and worked in.
In practice, most of the more than 1.7 million migrants who have been processed under Title 42 since then were expelled to Mexico.
This group includes Mexican nationals and migrants the Mexican government has agreed to accept from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala.
Other migrants have been expelled through deportation flights, mostly those from further afield and from countries such as the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Ecuador and Nicaragua.
Both the Trump and Biden administrations, the latter of which inherited the policy, maintained that because of the public health emergency posed by the coronavirus, Title 42 effectively overrode U.S. asylum law.
Typically under U.S. asylum law, migrants are allowed into the U.S. for their protection while they formally file for asylum. Once they make such an application, they gain another level of protection — that is, from expulsion.
According to data from U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Trump administration carried out just over 400,000 Title 42 expulsions during its last nine months of existence. Since taking office, the Biden administration has carried out over 1.2 million expulsions.
All of which brings us, roughly, to today.
Last Friday, April 1, current CDC Director Rochelle Walensky announced the agency would stop authorizing Title 42 on May 23, saying the expulsions of migrants are no longer necessary to protect public health.
In a 30-page order, Walensky gave several reasons for this decision including the increased vaccination rates in the U.S. and migrants’ native countries, the relatively easy access to testing, distancing, face maks and other mitigation cases, and the dramatic drop in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations since the peak of the omicron surge last fall.
What They Are Saying
Sens. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Bob Menendez, D-N.J., issued a joint statement:
“We are glad that the administration has made the decision to end Title 42 expulsions. Title 42 is a Trump-era relic that prevented the Department of Homeland Security from implementing our immigration laws and enriched smuggling networks by allowing vulnerable migrants to make multiple dangerous trips across the border. It failed to protect public health and instead created chaos at the border and hurt asylum seekers fleeing prosecution and torture.
“While we support ending Title 42, extending this policy until the end of May will only incentivize more irregular migration to the border and create an unnecessary bottleneck effect when it finally sunsets. We hope the administration will expand exemptions to the original order and start lifting Title 42 in phases. They have already used these exemptions to help Ukrainians at the southern border, and the administration should start processing families of all nationalities immediately. Waiting any longer before starting to process migrants with asylum claims will only allow smugglers to exploit even more vulnerable people and increase operational challenges at the border.
“We also call on the administration to double down on its efforts to resolve the crises that are driving unprecedented levels of migration throughout our hemisphere. Many of our Cuban, Haitian, Venezuelan, Colombian, and Nicaraguan brothers and sisters, along with others in this hemisphere, face direct and immediate threats to their lives. They are deserving of international protection considerations. It is time for the United States to do its part to expand legal access to migration from Latin America and the Caribbean, including through bolstered visa processing, refugee resettlement, humanitarian parole, and labor migration opportunities. Our nation thrives because of the contributions of immigrants from Latin America and the Caribbean, and denying predominantly Black and Brown migrants from seeking protection from prosecution and torture is not who we are as a nation.
“We stand ready to work closely with all federal agencies of jurisdiction to make sure they have the necessary resources to begin processing asylum seekers, restore humane immigration enforcement and humanitarian laws at the border, and protect all migrants seeking refuge in America.”
Jon Tester, D-Mont.
“Ending Title 42 is expected to cause a significant increase of migration to the United States and put more pressure on an already broken system. These problems do not only affect the southern border, but put more strain on those working to secure the northern border as well,” wrote Tester. “The Department must provide additional information on how it is working with other federal, state, and local agencies to ensure that additional staffing, processing, humanitarian, and security resources are in place, and how it is prepared to address the increased numbers of encounters and asylum claims that are expected to follow.
“Customs and Border Patrol’s own staffing models show a current shortage of more than 1,000 officers, and I continue to hear from officers that frequent reassignments to the southern border are negatively impacting security at the northern border, officer morale, and staffing levels. I also urge the Department to provide additional information about how it is working to address this staffing shortage, and improve recruitment and retention of CBP officers. The Department must also ensure that CBP officers from the northern border ports of entry will not be subject to frequent reassignments to the southern border and that the northern border will remain secure.”
Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H.
“Ending Title 42 prematurely will likely lead to a migrant surge that the administration does not appear to be ready for. I’ll keep pushing the administration to strengthen border security & look forward to hearing directly from border agents during my upcoming trip to the border.”
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.
“Today’s announcement by the CDC and the Biden administration is a frightening decision,” said Manchin. “Title 42 has been an essential tool in combatting 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. 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.”
Senate Minority Whip John Thune, R- S.D.
“Republicans will insist on an amendment vote to target the Biden administration’s immigration policies at the border — its Title 42 decision — during floor debate of the $10 billion COVID relief bill.
“The exact language of Title 42 amendments is still being worked out, and Republicans will consult with the Senate parliamentarian about which measures would be considered germane to the COVID-19 package.
“Until we actually get into a discussion with Democrats about a process, it’s hard to say what amendments, if any, might be included.”
Jen Psaki, White House Press Secretary
“Title 42 should remain independent of the urgently needed funding for COVID aid. I mean, this is a decision made by the CDC. It’s a public health decision. It’s not one that should be wrapped up, of course, in politics. And the decision made by the CDC is where it should belong as it relates to Title 42.”
Rep. Nancy Mace, R-S.C.
“CDC Director Rochelle Walensky intends to lift the Title 42 order by the end of May. This is alarming. I have seen firsthand how invaluable this tool has been to our Border Patrol and immigration agents in helping to prevent another national security and humanitarian catastrophe at the southern border.
“Today I joined with my Republican colleagues on the Oversight Committee in demanding answers from the Department of Homeland Security on their readiness capabilities and what, if any, preparations are underway to manage the expected influx of illegal border crossers.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
“The Biden administration is on track for another record-shattering year on our southern border — in all the wrong ways.
“The Department of Homeland Security is reportedly preparing for up to 18,000 attempted border crossings per day.
“President Biden’s border crisis is a symptom of the modern Democratic Party’s inability to support any remotely reasonable policy of border enforcement.
“Now, thus far, the Biden administration has kept the chaos somewhat in check by leaning on emergency authorities that are specific to the COVID pandemic.
“To be clear, even with these Title 42 authorities in place, our border’s still been in crisis. Last month was the worst February in more than 20 years. We just saw the worst 12-month period for illegal crossings since at least 1960.
“This is with Title 42 in place. Just imagine if President Biden kills it.
“But the open-borders far left doesn’t like Title 42. So now, according to public reports, the Biden administration is preparing to cave to the radicals, end Title 42, and effectively throw our borders wide open.
“Ending Title 42 without any real border security plan in place would spark a humanitarian and security crisis like we’ve never seen.
“But the far left doesn’t care. Open borders are their objective.
“So at the very same time that Washington Democrats are pushing for more federal spending on the pandemic, they want to declare the pandemic is finished at our southern border. It plainly does not add up.
“Throwing the floodgates open for a historic spring and summer of illegal immigration would be an unforced error of historic proportions. It would be right up there with this administration’s $2 trillion in inflationary spending and their botched retreat from Afghanistan.
“But this goes deeper than just Title 42 and COVID.
“The fundamental point is this: Today’s Democrats need the pretext of the pandemic to justify having national borders at all. The left feels they need the pretext of COVID to have any border enforcement at all.
“It is mind-boggling. Republicans and the American people reject this false choice between permanent COVID versus open borders. We can’t only be a sovereign nation during pandemics! Americans deserve secure borders all the time.
“Functional open borders have pervaded the Biden agenda at every level.
“The president chose a Supreme Court nominee, Judge Jackson, who’s displayed a major streak of judicial activism on illegal immigration.
“In 2019, the Judge sided with left-wing activists and overlooked plain statutory language that gave DHS ‘sole and unreviewable discretion’ over speedy removal of illegal immigrants.
“Judge Jackson brushed aside the plain text of the law to reach the policy outcome she wanted. And she went even further. She issued a nationwide injunction to impose her radical policy view on the entire country.
“This was a blatant case of judicial activism. The ruling read like it belonged on the opinion pages of The Washington Post.
“Even the very liberal D.C. Circuit completely disagreed and overturned Judge Jackson, with an Obama appointee writing the opinion.
“It should not be this hard for an administration to understand that a nation needs borders.
“I strongly urge the president to keep Title 42 in place and quickly produce an actual strategy to do his job and secure our border.”
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.
“Today’s decision confirms that President Biden has abdicated his responsibilities and is actively working to make the border crisis worse. From day one of his administration, he has failed to protect our nation’s security and to secure the border.
Today, Biden’s border crisis is worse than ever, but the president has decided to eliminate yet another vital tool: Title 42. This decision is wrong and will invite a lawless surge of illegal border crossings to enrich human traffickers and overwhelm border patrol. This will inflict suffering, pain and tragedy throughout our country. Make no mistake, the president will own the calamity his policies have created.
“[Border Patrol] agents talk about what overwhelming numbers they see today, and how they remove 55% of the people that come through with Title 42. There’s no longer a few border cities; every city is a border city. … President Biden and Vice President Harris said they would do something about [the border], and they have not — they’ve only made it worse.”
House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La.
“President Biden has created the worst border crisis in American history. On Friday, the Biden administration declared that it will revoke Title 42, which allows for expedited deportations at the border during a public health crisis. This decision will further open up our border and encourage hundreds of thousands of more migrants to unlawfully enter the United States.
“Ending Title 42 will make Biden’s border crisis worse, not better.
“At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, President Trump effectively used Title 42 of the Public Health [Service] Act to prevent migrants from spreading COVID in the United States.
“Title 42 worked. This policy has been used to expel migrants more than 1.7 million times.
“By rescinding this critical public health authority, President Biden will incentivize more migrants to illegally cross the border.
“A surge at the border is coming — and President Biden refuses to do anything.
“Thanks to President Biden’s weak border security policies, every town in America is a border town.”
Sen. Mark Kelly, D- Ariz.
“This is the wrong decision. It’s unacceptable to end Title 42 without a plan and coordination in place to ensure a secure, orderly and humane process at the border. From my numerous visits to the southern border and conversations with Arizona’s law enforcement, community leaders, mayors and nonprofits, it’s clear that this administration’s lack of a plan to deal with this crisis will further strain our border communities. Despite this decision, I’m going to continue pushing for Arizona to get every additional resource that we can to assist at the border.”
Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz.
“Prematurely ending Title 42 without a comprehensive, workable plan would put at risk the health and safety of Arizona communities and migrants. Today’s decision to announce an end to Title 42 despite not yet having a comprehensive plan ready shows a lack of understanding about the crisis at our border. I’ll continue pushing for transparency and accountability from the administration to help secure the border, keep Arizona communities safe and ensure migrants are treated fairly and humanely.”
Chad Wolf, Former Acting Secretary of Homeland Security; Executive Director, American First Policy Institute
“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. 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.
“By removing this authority, Border Patrol agents will be forced to encounter more individuals attempting to illegally enter the country than ever before and Americans across the country will see more mass releases of individuals into their communities. Today’s decision, coupled with other devastating decisions made over the last 14 months, represents a complete abdication of the federal government’s responsibility to implement and uphold the rule of law along the border. The American people deserve better.”
Kerri Talbot, Deputy Director of the Immigration Hub
“The Republicans are engaged in political gamesmanship rather than border management. The CDC and leading public health experts agree there is no public health justification to maintain Title 42. Keeping this policy in place isn’t the answer to managing migration, securing our borders or, least of all, improving our immigration system. It’s clear, Senate Republicans are intent on dismantling America’s asylum system and returning to the failed family separation policies of the past. They would be willing to block Ukrainians and asylum seekers fleeing war, communism and persecution to score a soundbite on campaign ads.
“Anyone who would support this political ploy would be supporting a return to a family separation policy. The CDC was right in revoking Title 42, and President Biden is already following through with a whole-government approach to ensure an orderly process at the border while working with global leaders to address migration. His administration has a plan that lives up to our values and enforces our immigration laws. Instead of undermining the president’s plan, Congress should fund reforms to strengthen our immigration system.”
Wendy Young, President of KIND, Kids In Need of Defense
“The termination of Title 42, while immensely welcome, is just the first step in ensuring appropriate reception and treatment of children at the U.S.-Mexico border.
“The administration must also reopen the ports of entry to allow unaccompanied children and others seeking protection to request humanitarian relief at border crossings.”
Dan can be reached at [email protected] and at https://twitter.com/DanMcCue