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The covid-era rule that lets the US expel refugees before they can seek asylum is reaching its expiration date

Title 42 has been widely criticized by public health experts and human rights advocates
The covid-era rule that lets the US expel refugees before they can seek asylum is reaching its expiration date
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More people are expected to cross into the US from Mexico as a covid-era rule that had become a key border enforcement policy is due to expire next week.

The Trump administration invoked Title 42, a public health order that allows authorities to expel individuals who come from countries where a disease has spread, shortly after the covid-19 pandemic hit in March 2020. The policy effectively allowed border patrol officers to turn away people fleeing their countries without giving them a chance to seek asylum.

At the time, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had said the implementation of the federal public health law that dates back to 1944 was necessary because immigrants being processed at the border were held in facilities with no means for social distancing, quarantining, or disseminating medical treatment, risking the spread of he disease.

But two-and-a-half years later, the country’s health authorities consider the “full-blown phase” of the pandemic to be over. Even though healthcare systems are grappling with another surge, vaccines and treatments are in place.

Title 42 will finally expire on Wednesday (Dec. 21) after a federal court struck down what it called an “arbitrary and capricious” policy, which had been extended several times, last month.

Should Title 42 be lifted?

Public health officials have long debunked the efficacy of stopping border traffic to control the spread of covid-19.

The Biden administration intended to lift Title 42 in May, but a federal judge in Louisiana blocked those plans after several Republican-backed states claimed it would cause chaos at the border, costing taxpayers’ money.

Even now, several lawmakers and communities have pushed back on its revocation, arguing it will cause a spike not just in legal migration, but also in human smuggling.

The Department of Homeland Security’s post-Title 42 plans

DHS secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas said this week that, once the Title 42 order is no longer in place, border control officers will enforce“its longstanding Title 8 authorities,” and “expedited removal” for those unable to establish a legal basis to remain in the US.

Mayorkas promised the DHS would continue to fight smuggling and increase resources towards processing asylum claims at the border, but he also recognized that the immigration system is “under strain” at all levels— federal, state, local, NGO, and community partners—and congressional action is needed to reform the immigration and asylum systems.

Ahead of the policy’s expiration date, thousands of people are waiting at the southwest US-Mexico border, camping out in makeshift tents. In recent days, thousands have crossed over into El Paso, Texas, after wading across Rio Grande. Shelters in the city are already full, and border patrol officers and social workers feel like they can’t keep up.

Monthly updates from the Customs and Border Protection agency this past year suggest that an increase in the number of encounters with individuals trying to enter the US is largely driven by people fleeing the crisis-ridden countries of Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua.

With or without Title 42, by the digits

2.4 million: Migrants turned back from the US border since Title 42 was implemented

10,318: Reports of murder, kidnapping, rape, torture, and other violent attacks against people blocked in or expelled to Mexico due to Title 42 between January 2021 and June 2022

12,000: Children who entered as unaccompanied minors in fiscal year 2021 after Biden’s exemption. Most were previously expelled under Title 42 when they attempted to enter with their parents, leading families to face the impossible choice of sending their kids alone into the US or staying together in places where they are all vulnerable

up to 14,000: Estimated number of attempted daily crossings after Title 42 expires

2,600: People who reportedly illegally crossed the border to enter El Paso, Texas, this Sunday (Dec. 11), according to Texas Governor Greg Abbott

Title 42, in the words of an immigration reform advocate

“Title 42 has never been about public health or safety. Instead, it was a central front in the Trump/Miller war on immigrants and was used as a pretext to trample on America’s proud tradition of offering safety to migrants fleeing oppression, violence and death by offering them a legal process by which they can ask for asylum. The US must recognize that the complicated dynamics that lead to forced migration do not begin or end and cannot only be addressed at the US southern border nor solely through deterrence-focused policy.” Vanessa Cárdenas, Executive Director of America’s Voice

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