The Biden administration is reportedly planning to roll back a controversial Trump administration policy allowing immigration authorities to “expel” certain illegal immigrants over concerns they could spread COVID-19, effectively closing the border between the United States and Mexico.
The Washington Free Beacon reported that the Biden administration is “preparing to gut COVID-19 safety restrictions on illegal immigrants and asylum seekers and essentially reverse the Trump administration’s pandemic health protections without public notice, according to documents circulating within U.S. Customs and Border Protection.”
The policy, known as Title 42, “specifically prohibits all ‘non-essential’ travel at these land ports of entry to prevent the spread of COVID-19. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) defines ‘non-essential’ travel as travel for ‘tourism purposes (e.g., sightseeing, recreation, gambling, or attending cultural events),” according to National Law Review. “’Essential’ travel includes, among other categories, U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents returning to the United States, individuals traveling for medical purposes, and individuals traveling to work in the United States.”
The Trump administration used Title 42, the Free Beacon noted, to turn away any migrant who post “a serious danger of introduction of [a communicable] disease,” allowing immigration officials to deny entry to an increasing number of single male asylum seekers.
“A May memo,” the outlet noted, “highlighted a potential workaround of the safety measures. The memo, authored by senior staff at CBP, emphasizes the ability of ‘customs officers [to] determine [who] should be allowed into the United States,'” effectively taking a more nuanced approach to expelling immigrants over COVID-19 concerns.
“Customs and Border Protection officials say the Biden administration is looking to liberally interpret that provision, which was initially meant for migrants with extenuating circumstances related to humanitarian concerns or political repression. Broadening the humanitarian exemption would constitute a de facto reversal of the Trump administration’s guidance on limiting migration into the country,” the Free Beacon reported.
The move may come in response to reports that Vice President Kamala Harris, who was placed in charge of handling the border crisis more than 50 days ago, was facing criticism from progressive and pro-immigration groups over the Biden administration’s decision to leave Title 42 intact.
Harris signed a letter during President Donald Trump’s tenure, calling the Title 42 policy a “’startling expansion of executive powers’ designed to limit those seeking ‘humanitarian protection’ from seeking asylum and suggesting that the Trump administration was causing a public health crisis by arbitrarily enforcing its interpretation of an outdated statute,” according to an earlier report from The Daily Wire.
She faced a call, even, from her own former colleagues, questioning why she had so suddenly decided to reverse course on the issue.
“More than 60 House Democrats are urging President Joe Biden to end the policy, saying it has no legal basis. Dozens of public health experts say it has ‘no scientific basis as a public health measure.,” The Daily Wire noted in early May. “Immigration advocates have filed legal challenges as well.”
The Biden administration is still struggling to address the ongoing immigration crisis. Although many of the unaccompanied minors who once flooded border detention facilities have since been moved to Heath and Human Services-run shelters, the number of individuals seeking to cross the United States’ southern border has not decreased. In April, United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) encountered 178,622 — one of the highest numbers on record.
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