CDC orders Title 42 to wind down, saying expulsions of migrants are no longer needed

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced on Friday that it will stop allowing U.S. border agents to deport migrants without asylum interviews on May 23, and said the deportation policy, known as Heading 42is no longer necessary to control the spread of the coronavirus.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said she decided to end the order approving deportations due to improved pandemic conditions, including increased vaccination rates in the US and migrants’ home countries and the reduction in covid-19 cases and hospitalizations since the Omicron increase this winter.

“While the introduction, transmission and spread of covid-19 to the United States is likely to continue to some extent, the cross-border spread of covid-19 due to covered non-citizens does not pose the serious public health threat it once did, given on the range of restrictive measures now available, “Walensky wrote in his 30-page article directive.

Walensky said she delayed the termination until the end of May to give Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials time to implement measures to alleviate the coronavirus, including a migrant vaccination campaign launched earlier this week.

CBS News and other media reported the settlement plan for title 42 earlier this week.

Walensky’s order on Friday marks the beginning of the end of an unprecedented Trump-era border policy that began in March 2020 and that the Biden administration continued for over a year, despite concerns about the validity of its public health motivation.

U.S. authorities along the Mexican border have used Title 42 to deport migrants over 1.7 million times in two years. About 70% of these expulsions occurred during the Biden administration, which has met a record number of migrants arriving at the southern border in the past year, DHS figures show.

Section 42 has allowed border authorities to circumvent U.S. immigration laws, which require them to screen asylum seekers to determine if they could be harmed if deported. Most of the migrants treated under Title 42 have been deported by land to Mexico, while others have been placed on deportation flights to Brazil, Central America, Colombia, Haiti and other Latin American countries.

During a briefing with reporters on Friday, senior DHS officials said the United States will continue to deport single adult migrants and families traveling with children in the coming weeks until Title 42 is formally lifted.

Following the closure of Division 42, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said on Friday that migrants entering the United States will be illegally placed in deportation proceedings, and his division will seek to deport those who do not qualify for asylum through long-term immigration laws.

Mayorkas warned that those smuggling migrants were likely to distort US border policy in light of Friday’s announcement, reflecting concerns from DHS officials, who are preparing for a record nail in migrant arrests after the end of Title 42.

“We know that smugglers will spread misinformation to take advantage of vulnerable migrants,” Mayorkas added. “Let me be clear: those who are unable to establish a legal basis to remain in the United States will be removed.”

Yuma Arizona border crossing
Asylum seekers board a bus to be transported to an immigration facility after crossing the border between Mexico and the United States to Yuma on February 21, 2022 in Yuma, Arizona, USA.

Katie McTiernan / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Mayorkas noted that another 600 border patrol agents have been deployed and a senior DHS official said the department is ready to mobilize other officers. U.S. border agents are also referring smugglers and some adult migrants to the Department of Justice for prosecution, the official added.

When Section 42 ends, the administration plans to send more asylum seekers to Mexico under another Trump-era program that was reintroduced late last year due to a federal court decision, the senior DHS official said. To date, the court-ordered revival of the Remain-in-Mexico policy has been limited and has affected fewer than 2,000 migrants.

The DHS official said that the department is expanding its recently launched migrant vaccination plans to be able to inoculate up to 6,000 individuals in border detention daily when department 42 ends.

Single adult migrants who refuse to be vaccinated will be referred to ICE jail, the DHS official said, while families who refuse a shot will be released with “stricter conditions for conditional release”, which would likely include ankle monitors.

While many Democratic lawmakers praised the Biden administration for closing down Section 42, Friday’s announcement received widespread condemnation from Republicans, as well as criticism from some moderate Democrats.

Senators Mark Kelly and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona; Joe Manchin of West Virginia; and Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire were among the Democratic lawmakers who expressed concern that Title 42 ended.

“This is the wrong decision,” said Kelly, who is up for re-election in November. “It is unacceptable to close Section 42 without a plan and coordination in place to ensure a safe, orderly and humane process at the border.”

Senator Richard Burr, a Republican from North Carolina, said the repeal of Title 42 would hinder the government’s ability to “prevent new, potentially undiscovered variants from entering the country.”

Democrat representatives Bennie Thompson and Nanette Barragán said, referring to the recent easing of other pandemic restrictions, that it was time to end the Trump era’s border deportations.

“This harmful and inhuman policy was never based on sound science or public health needs but was too convenient a tool for the extreme members of the previous administration to close the border,” Thompson and Barragán said in a joint statement.

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