Biden to Reopen Border in Reversal of Trump COVID Policy

The Biden administration plans to end a pandemic border policy implemented by former President Donald Trump that requires migrants to be turned away immediately at the southern border.

The order, known as Title 42, is scheduled to end on May 23.

Border officials have expressed opposition to the end of the immediate turn-back policy, voicing concerns that they will be swamped by migrants, leading to releases into the U.S. of people who otherwise would be deported or jailed due to overcrowding in border facilities.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says it is taking the step because “there is no longer a serious danger” that migrants would spread or introduce COVID-19 inside immigration detention facilities. 

The CDC planned the May end date of Title 42 to allow the Department of Homeland Security to prepare for the predicted surge of migrant crossings this spring.

Border Patrol agents have already been overwhelmed by the number of migrants flooding the southern border. 

The administration’s order to end Title 42 will mean border officers will need to consider any asylum claims made by migrants at the border.

The suspension of the policy requires border officials to briefly detain migrants before deporting them or releasing them into the U.S. Under the Title 42 policy, any migrants who ask for humanitarian protection can be deported to another country or expelled back to Mexico without investigation into their claims.

However, Mexico has limited the number of people it would take back.

Democrats split

The Biden administration has come under intense pressure from Democrats to restore the border asylum process and end the policy.

With the CDC deadline looming, Representative Juan Vargas, D-Calif., who represents the U.S.-Mexico border, “Migrants have been cruelly expelled from our country under the guise of Title 42.” He continued saying, “Title 42 was never about public health and safety — it was implemented to deny due process to people seeking refuge and protection.”

However, several notable Democrats broke with the party recently, calling on the administration to continue the policy until a comprehensive plan to handle the influx of migrants is in place.

Two Texas Democrats and Arizona Democratic senators, Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly, who represent border districts, along with Senator Joe Manchin, D., W.Va. expressed their concern.

Manchin released a statement saying, “I urge you to again renew this common-sense policy that has been in effect — under both Republican and Democratic administrations — since March 2020.”

Republicans argue that the Biden administration should keep the order indefinitely and expressed concern that lifting it would worsen the already-mismanaged border policy.

“Dropping Title 42 without other changes in border policies will produce a tsunami of migrants drugs,” tweeted Senator John Cornyn, R-Texas.

The Biden administration’s timeline to end Title 42 roughly coincides with implementing a new border policy that is meant to substantially speed up the time it takes for a migrant’s asylum decision to be delivered.

According to reports, the White House’s post-Title 42 border strategy asks asylum officers to hear migrant asylum claims rather than immigration judges. 

DHS recently confirmed that in preparation for the end of Title 42, the Border Patrol has begun vaccinating migrants it takes into custody.