The Biden administration is considering delaying the repeal of Title 42, a restrictive immigration policy that has allowed federal agents to turn away and expel millions of asylum seekers at the border under the guise of public health.
President Joe Biden’s inner circle has been discussing extending the policy for an indeterminate amount of time and he is reportedly facing pressure from moderate Democrats like Sen. Chris Coons (D-Delaware) to do so. Earlier this month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that the administration is planning to end its use of the policy on May 23, saying that it’s no longer necessary due to current public health conditions.
The news sparked frustration among immigration advocates, who are already aggrieved that Biden has kept the policy, originally invoked by Donald Trump in March of 2020, for so long into his tenure.
“Unacceptable. Shame on the Biden Administration and Democrats for trying to keep this racist sham public health order alive,” wrote Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES) on Twitter.
Late last month, a group of 87 immigrant advocacy organizations led by the Haitian Bridge Alliance and Immigration Hub wrote a letter to the Biden administration saying that the “ongoing use of Title 42 undermines our trust in the administration,” especially since the administration had considered rescinding the order last summer but ended up extending it.
Immigration advocates have called Title 42 a “failed,” racist policy that serves only to hurt the most vulnerable people at the border. It has caused a crisis at the nation’s southern border, endangering thousands — if not millions — of people who are risking their lives to seek safety in the U.S. Even before the news broke that the administration was considering extending the policy once again, immigration advocates were skeptical that the policy would be repealed in a way that wouldn’t cause further harm to asylum seekers.
“The announcement to terminate Title 42 is long overdue,” Haddy Gassama, UndocuBlack Network’s national director of policy and advocacy, told Prism earlier this week. “Organizations such as UndocuBlack and Haitian Bridge Alliance and many others have been pushing for the end of this policy for pretty much the two years since its inception. But, we weren’t able to celebrate immediately because there were so many questions around the implementation of that termination and what it would look like.”
Title 42 is supposed to be used only when there is a dire need to protect public health, but public health experts say that there isn’t any evidence that the policy actually helps to stop the spread of COVID-19.
Meanwhile, public health experts say that moves like lifting the federal mask mandate for air travel, as a federal judge’s ruling did on Monday, could help spread the virus and is against public health principles — but the Biden administration has been waffling on whether or not it will appeal that ruling.
Instead, immigration advocates say it’s clear that the use of Title 42 is political, rather than public health related.
“There is not even an attempt at pretext anymore that Title 42 is anything other than a political measure attempting to set immigration policy. But that’s not legal. At all,” explained Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, senior policy counsel for the American Immigration Council, on Twitter. “It’s a public health law that can only be used when there is a ‘serious danger’ of ‘introducing’ a disease.”
Immigration advocates are also frustrated with conservative Democrats like Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona) for their support of a recent bill that would codify Title 42 into law, with RAICES dubbing it the “Stephen Miller bill,” after the Trump senior adviser who crafted much of the far right president’s racist and restrictive immigration agenda.