Immigration authority Title 42 to be terminated on May 23, CDC says

Despite warnings, including from fellow Democrats, that it will lead to another surge of illegal migrants at the border with Mexico, President Biden will end the Trump-era policy known as Title 42 — which allowed the summary expulsion of nearly 2 million migrants — on May 23, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Friday.

The move comes as hundreds of migrants have already pushed north through Mexico in caravans, clashing with National Guard officers and immigration agents and stoking concerns of a potential wave of up to 170,000 migrants this spring.

In a statement, the CDC said the order would remain in place for the next seven weeks to “implement appropriate COVID-19 mitigation protocols, such as scaling up a program to provide COVID-19 vaccinations to migrants and prepare for resumption of regular migration”.

“After considering current public health conditions and an increased availability of tools to fight COVID-19 (such as highly effective vaccines and therapeutics), the CDC Director has determined that an Order suspending the right to introduce migrants into the United States is no longer necessary,” the agency said.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki defended the move in Friday’s daily press briefing, saying “it has always been the case, and continues to be the case that this is a health directive determined by the CDC” rather than an immigration policy from the Department of Homeland Security.

Psaki also responded to criticism from progressive groups who had demanded an immediate end to the policy, saying: “It was always going to be important to have an implementation period and the timeline reflects that.”

Title 42 went into effect under former President Donald Trump in March 2020 and has allowed border officials to immediately expel migrants who attempt to enter the US without allowing them a chance to claim asylum.

The policy has been used to remove migrants more than 1.7 million times, according to official estimates.

Reports in recent weeks that the Biden administration would soon terminate Title 42 led lawmakers of both parties to warn of a massive surge in migration over the coming weeks — typically the peak period for attempted border crossings.

DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas warned in a separate statement that “we know that smugglers will spread misinformation to take advantage of vulnerable migrants.”

“Let me be clear,” he added. “Those unable to establish a legal basis to remain in the United States will be removed.”

“We are increasing our capacity to process new arrivals, evaluate asylum requests, and quickly remove those who do not qualify for protection,” Mayorkas went on. “We will increase personnel and resources as needed and have already redeployed more than 600 law enforcement officers to the border.”

While Mayorkas promised a “comprehensive, whole-of-government” approach to lifting Title 42, many local elected and border officials say they are in the dark about what to do, with some accusing the Biden administration of having “no plan.”

“We have received no guidance at all,” National Border Patrol Council President Brandon Judd told The Post. “Not only that, but they didn’t even bother telling us, so we had to learn about it from the news, just like everybody else.”

“It’s impossible for me to overstate how demoralized the average agent is,” Judd added. “They’re asking themselves, ‘Why am I putting on this uniform?’ every day. This administration is responsible for the single largest crisis on the border and they’re about to make it worse.”

“We don’t have enough information on what those plans are … assuming they exist,” Border Patrol agent Jon Anfinsen told The Post earlier this week. “We don’t even know what to tell [agents] what to expect. We’re already in a position where things are as bad as they have ever been. To think they’re going to get worse, it’s hard to quantify that.”

As hundreds of migrants march north through Mexico, many are already camped out at ports of entry along the border.

DHS and State Department officials told reporters that the administration is looking for ways to “streamline” processing at ports of entry and provide migrants with a “more orderly, legal pathway.” They did not detail whether migrants already positioned at the border will receive prioritization for asylum requests.

When pressed about how many migrants are waiting in Mexico for the order to end, the officials did not provide a number but said they are “continually working to identify where migrant populations are.”

The officials noted that they are anticipating “challenges” at remote areas of the border such as Yuma, Arizona and Del, Rio Texas.

Republicans immediately slammed the administration’s move with Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel accusing Biden of “actively worsening the crisis he created.”

“At every opportunity, Biden has enacted policies that open our southern border, empower drug smugglers and human traffickers, and make American communities less safe. Joe Biden has overseen the worst border crisis in DHS history,” McDaniel said. “By removing Title 42, Biden’s doubling down on his commitment to actively worsening the crisis he created.”

“Ending Title 42 expulsions will signal to cartels and migrants alike that our southern border is now wide open—inciting even more violence, more trafficking, and more lawlessness,” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott claimed. “President Biden clearly has no intention to secure the border by faithfully executing Congress’ command to detain and deport illegal immigrants.”

“Ending Title 42 prematurely will likely lead to a migrant surge that the administration does not appear to be ready for,” Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH) tweeted. “I’ll keep pushing the administration to strengthen border security & look forward to hearing directly from border agents during my upcoming trip to the border.”

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) called it the “worst domestic news” of the day, while Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) called it “frightening.”

“Title 42 has been an essential tool in combating the spread of COVID-19 and controlling the influx of migrants at our southern border. We are already facing an unprecedented increase in migrants this year, and that will only get worse if the Administration ends the Title 42 policy,” Manchin said. “We are nowhere near prepared to deal with that influx.”

“I couldn’t agree more with [Manchin],” Rep. Bryon Donalds (R-Fla.) tweeted. “The administration’s directive to end Title 42 will worsen the already inhumane border crisis. Title 42 was our last line of defense at the border, & now it will be open season for cartels, smugglers, & illegal migration. #BuildTheWall”

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), chair of the Senate Border Management Subcommittee, also joined in the criticism, saying the move “shows a lack of understanding about the crisis at our border.

“Prematurely ending Title 42 without a comprehensive, workable plan would put at risk the health and safety of Arizona communities and migrants,” Sinema said, adding that she will “pushing for transparency and accountability from the Administration to help secure the border, keep Arizona communities safe, and ensure migrants are treated fairly and humanely.”

Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) — who, like Hassan, is up for reelection in November, simply called it the “wrong decision.”

“It’s unacceptable to end Title 42 without a plan and coordination in place to ensure a secure, orderly, and humane process at the border,” he said. “From my numerous visits to the southern border and conversations with Arizona’s law enforcement, community leaders, mayors, and non-profits, it’s clear that this administration’s lack of a plan to deal with this crisis will further strain our border communities. Despite this decision, I’m going to continue pushing for Arizona to get every additional resource that we can to assist at the border.”

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