National Security

GOP senators urge Biden to keep Trump-era border restrictions

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Senate Republicans on Wednesday urged the Biden administration to keep a Trump-era policy in place that allows border agents to swiftly expel those who cross into the U.S. from Mexico amid reports the White House may lift the directive later this month.

So-called Title 42 was implemented under the Trump administration, spurring a number of lawsuits as border officers turned away would-be migrants without permitting them to claim asylum. 

The Biden administration has largely kept the policy in place, though following litigation an exception was made for some children and families who have remained in detention while they pursue their claims.

But GOP lawmakers on Wednesday warned the administration would be unprepared for an influx of people at the border if they lose their ability to turn them away.

“Can you imagine what would happen and what will happen when Title 42 goes away? I know, because I see where they’re spending the money and they have no plan for this flood of humanity,” Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) said at a press conference to announce a letter on the topic sent to President Biden.

The Biden administration has seen swelling numbers at the border, using Title 42 to expel roughly 100,000 migrants each month. Those numbers are mostly single adults, though some of the top-line figure accounts for those who have attempted multiple crossings.

“They cannot say this time that they don’t know there’s going to be an influx [at the border] because there’s obviously going to be an influx, because many of these adults are now being turned away because of Title 42 and a health care emergency that will be gone. And yet, are they doing anything to prepare?” Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) said.

The White House did not respond to request for comment.

Biden administration officials have largely defended the retention of Title 42, even as they’ve worked to overturn a number of other Trump-era immigration policies, including the “Remain in Mexico” policy that required migrants to wait out the asylum process in Mexico.

“ICE is concerned that the loss of Title 42 could create additional pressure on our immigration system,” U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement acting Director Tae Johnson told lawmakers in May, nodding to litigation from the American Civil Liberties Union. He called the rule “critical” to maintaining social distance in border facilities.

“It is not a tool of immigration. It is a tool of public health, and therefore, the use of Title 42 will be governed by the CDC,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said at a hearing the same day.

At Wednesday’s press conference, numerous lawmakers expressed concern over the potential for further spread of COVID-19 without Title 42.

Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) listed off vaccination rates in numerous Latin American countries, many of which hovered in the single digits. Roughly 50 percent of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, lagging behind other countries like Israel, Chile, and the United Kingdom, according to data compiled by The New York Times.

“Joe Biden likes to talk about what a priority he puts on the pandemic,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said. 

“Understand this: If the Biden administration ends Title 42, they will be releasing illegal immigrants in your community who are COVID positive.”

Tags Alejandro Mayorkas Asylum Immigration Joe Biden John Hoeven Rob Portman Shelley Moore Capito Ted Cruz Title 42
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