President Joe Biden has reportedly reviewed a plan to end a Trump-era public health order that permitted border officials to speedily turn away migrant families seeking entry to the U.S.
Trump's order, Title 42, was intended to prohibit asylum-seekers who potentially were carrying COVID-19 from entering the country and spreading the disease. Tens of thousands of migrants were turned away at the border and sent back to Mexico under the policy.
As COVID-19 cases have fallen nationwide and vaccine distribution has led to falling numbers of deaths, hospitalizations, and infections, immigration activists have called on the Biden administration to end Title 42.
On Monday, Axios reported that Biden was briefed on a plan for ending family expulsions by the end of July, either through executive action or by letting a court strike down the policy. The American Civil Liberties Union has challenged the order in a lawsuit that claims the Trump administration usurped Congress to "bypass the entire immigration statutory scheme" by using public health law to "set aside the immigration laws."
According to the report, Biden's administration has been negotiating with the ACLU, which has put a temporary hold on its lawsuit. Top administration officials are reportedly urging Biden to be proactive and end Title 42 before the ACLU resumes its lawsuit and the Biden administration is forced to defend Trump's policy in court. There appears to be a worry that a court battle over the policy "could result in sensitive information being released through the litigation process" that "could be seen as contradictory to Biden's commitment to asylum," Stef W. Kight reported.
A White House official who spoke to Axios said ending Title 42 would be "a public health decision that will be made ultimately on those grounds." The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will ultimately make a determination on the policy, which Biden will then act on.
In the past four months, migrant adults have been denied entry to the U.S. at least 350,000 times under Title 42. Even so, Axios reported that since March, the policy has been applied to fewer than half of family encounters. This is because of limited space in Mexican shelters to house migrants turned away from the U.S. Additionally, some Mexican states are refusing to take in families with young children.
In May, the Biden administration also made it easier for asylum-seekers to claim a humanitarian exemption to the Title 42 policy.
White House officials admitted there is a chance ending Title 42 for families could lead to a surge of migrant families arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border.
In the first months of Biden's administration, the president sought to repeal several of his predecessor's restrictive immigration policies, leading to the largest wave of migrants attempting to enter the U.S. in two decades. President Biden appointed Vice President Kamala Harris to lead the administration's response to the crisis, but her handling of the situation — and her bizarre refusal to visit the southern border — has been heavily criticized.
In May, U.S. Customs and Border Protection reported 112,302 border encounters under its Title 42 authority, the highest number of encounters reported since the order was enacted in March 2020.