National Security

GOP pressures DHS over Title 42 withdrawal

Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) speaks during a Senate Republican Leadership News Conference on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, March1, 2022.
Anna Rose Layden

Republicans are seeking to ratchet up pressure on the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) ahead of the anticipated withdrawal of a policy that blocks migrants from seeking asylum in the U.S.

A Thursday letter spearheaded by Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) and signed by more than a dozen other GOP senators asks DHS how it is preparing for the lifting of the Trump-era Title 42 order, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is reviewing through March 30.

Title 42 allows for the rapid expulsion of migrants, with many would-be asylum-seekers pushed across the border to Mexico or returned to their home countries. It’s been used by the Biden administration more than a million times — a figure that includes repeat crossers.

“This policy served as an effective deterrent to illegal border crossings by removing the prospect of an illegal alien being permitted to remain in and move freely throughout the United States pending the outcome of immigration proceedings,” Scott wrote in the letter.

He goes on to express concern that thousands may seek to cross the border if the order is lifted.

“This is a grave concern that threatens to overwhelm our already strained immigration system and will only exacerbate a disastrous situation at our southern border,” the letter states.

The letter comes amid reports that DHS is already prepping for a potential influx of border crossings due to pent up demand created by the policy.

According to reporting from Axios, that response includes a Southwest Border Coordination Center to help prepare for an influx in migration. That includes an estimated 25,000 people in shelters in Mexico near the border, according to the outlet.

But pressure from Democratic lawmakers and immigration advocates is reaching a peak, especially as concerns about the pandemic — used as a basis to justify the policy — ease with lower case numbers.

Critics have described Title 42 as illegal and inhumane, pushing asylum-seekers into dangerous conditions while defying international law.

Courts have also recently given conflicting guidance on Title 42, with one Texas-based federal judge ordering an expansion of the policy to include children traveling alone, while the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered new limitations on applying the policy to families and questioned its continuation as the globe makes strides toward managing the coronavirus.

In response, the CDC lifted Title 42 for unaccompanied children, “in recognition of the unique vulnerabilities of unaccompanied noncitizen children.”

The same order also notes that CDC’s broader Title 42 order is under review until March 30, when many are hopeful the agency will scrap the policy for adults and families.

The Biden administration on Thursday also published a new rule changing its own asylum process, which will take effect in late May. 

The rule allows officials with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to first weigh the merits of those who say they cannot return home for fear of torture and persecution, a move designed to alleviate pressure on the immigration court system which currently takes years to review such claims.

Tags Coronavirus Immigration Rick Scott Title 42

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