On Friday, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced the agency would end Title 42, which blocked people from seeking asylum due to the pandemic. The policy, introduced by former President Donald Trump, will be terminated on May 23.
“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 CDC added.
Before the final termination of Title 42, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will have time to implement appropriate COVID-19 mitigation protocols, such as scaling up a program to provide COVID-19 vaccinations to migrants and prepare for the resumption of regular migration under Title 8.
“Once the Title 42 Order is no longer in place, DHS will process individuals encountered at the border pursuant to Title 8, which is the standard procedure we use to place individuals in removal proceedings,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement Friday. “Nonetheless, we know that smugglers will spread misinformation to take advantage of vulnerable migrants. Let me be clear: those unable to establish a legal basis to remain in the United States will be removed,” he added.
Under Title 42, asylum seekers were previously turned away at the border to curb the spread of COVID-19. However, last month, the CDC terminated the policy for unaccompanied migrant children only.
Under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), an asylum seeker is someone who:
- Is located outside of the US
- Is of particular humanitarian concern to the US
- Demonstrates that they were persecuted or fear persecution due to race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group
- Is not firmly resettled in another country
- Is admissible to the US
In unusually harsh critiques of a president from their party, some of the congressional Democrats with the most challenging reelection prospects are warning that the administration is unprepared to handle the situation. Previous rises in migration have strained law enforcement agencies and nonprofits on the border trying to provide security and shelter.
“This is a crisis, and in my estimation, because of a lack of planning from the administration, it’s about to get worse,” said Sen. Mark Kelly of Arizona.
Advocates for immigrants and refugees in Arizona say it’s long past for the Biden administration to stop using public health rules to prevent people from claiming asylum.
Arizona’s senators seem to be looking at the border issue through a national political lens, said Joanna Williams, executive director of the Kino Border Initiative, which works in Nogales, Arizona, and Nogales, Mexico.
“They are underestimating Arizonans,” Williams said. “We really have a community of hospitality that can arise to the occasion and help people. The senators need to listen to what people here are saying. This isn’t Texas.”
The Associated Press contributed to this story.