The Biden administration is expected to announce plans this week to lift an emergency ordinance that has restricted immigration at U.S. land borders since the start of the pandemic, according to people familiar with the schedule.
The change, which comes into effect at the end of May, will allow migrants entering the country to once again apply for asylum without being rushed back amid public health concerns amid the pandemic.
Officials expect the lifting of the order, known as Title 42, will draw even more migrants from Central America and other regions to the southwestern border, where the number intercepted by border officials has already broken records in recent months. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which issued the order and are responsible for deciding when to lift it, have come under increasing pressure from Democratic members of Congress and human rights defenders to do so.
Much is at stake, both from a humanitarian and political point of view. Democrats don’t want the southwestern border to seem out of control in the months leading up to the midterm elections, which would lead to more Republican attacks on the Biden administration’s border policies.
But public health experts have said the order, designed to prevent migrants from spreading the coronavirus in the United States, has no scientific basis and that migrants pose no serious transmission risk, especially at this point in the pandemic.
Kate Bedingfield, the White House communications director, said on Wednesday that the White House will delay the CDC on when the injunction should be lifted. She said the government is preparing for a surge at the border when it happens.
“We’re planning for multiple contingencies, and we have every expectation that when the CDC finally decides it’s appropriate to lift Title 42, there will be an influx of people to the border,” she told reporters in the White House.
Homeland security officials Tuesday outlined emergency plans to manage as many as 18,000 encounters a day at the border. Working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, other federal agencies, and state and local officials, the department stands ready to deploy additional staff, buses and planes, medical aid and temporary facilities to process migrants.
Border officials have detained 900,000 undocumented migrants at the southwestern border since October, according to the Homeland Security Department. During fiscal year 2021, undocumented migrants were caught a staggering 1.7 million times. The number of illegal crossings increased significantly after President Biden took office, compared to the previous year, when the number fell in part due to the pandemic. Border officials are currently arresting about 7,000 undocumented migrants a day on the southwestern border.
Ms Bedingfield said the government would work to ensure migrants are treated humanely, citing the experience at the border last year, in the early months of Biden’s presidency, when as many as 14,000 children were sent to the border. flocked.
“An effort has been made to get those unaccompanied minors out of border patrol custody as soon as possible and taken to facilities more suitable for children,” she said. “And we’ve been able to drastically reduce those numbers.”
The Biden administration has defended the continued use of the injunction, citing the CDC’s assessment that lifting it would pose a public health threat during the pandemic. But critics say the public health decision has been used as an immigration control tool.