CDC announces May 23 end to Title 42, confirming early reports
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will end Title 42, the protocol that allows border officers to turn away migrants and asylum seekers because of the pandemic, on May 23. The news, released in a termination notice written by Director Rochelle Walensky on Friday, confirms reports from earlier this week saying the Biden administration was expected to roll back the protocol.
Title 42 was enacted two years ago in the name of safeguarding public health and has been used by some 1.7 million times to send migrants back to Mexico or their home countries. But the CDC statement said now, more than 97% of the U.S. population lives in an area defined as having low COVID-19 community spread, the U.S. has effective vaccines and DHS has laid out mitigation plans at the border, and Title 42 is no longer necessary.
"So ending Title 42 is not open borders, it is a regular order, where people have the right to ask for asylum, and those who request asylum will be processed into the country so they can pursue their case," Tyler Moran, a former senior migration policy adviser to the Biden administration, said on a press call Friday.
She said those who don’t request asylum or lose their cases will be removed from the U.S. After two years of restrictions on asylum, Moran says the number of people migrating is likely to go up.
"There should be no surprise that migration will likely increase, at least temporarily, due to pent-up demands and the fact that smugglers use any shift in U.S. policy to mislead migrants that it’s time to come," she said.
She said the Biden administration has spent months making a plan to respond to the increase with things like surging staff and resources to the border, and setting up temporary processing facilities for migrants.
Department of Homeland Security and State Department officials echoed those efforts on another call with reporters Friday. They said the U.S. would continue to carry out so-called Title 42 expulsions until the CDC's order comes to a close on May 23. Officials said the agency also needed time to ramp up a DHS vaccination program for migrants in Customs and Border Protection custody announced last month. They said the May termination would give the program and other COVID mitigation efforts time to be put in place.
In response to the news Friday, U.S. Sens. Mark Kelly and Kyrsten Sinema said the administration was ending Title 42 prematurely without a plan in place. The senators have said the Biden administration should not rescind the protocol before working with local groups and issuing a clear plan. Rep. Raúl Grijalva said ending Title 42 was the right decision and said the administration should focus on repairing the immigration and asylum system.
In a joint statement, Kino Border Initiative and the Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project, aid groups who work with migrants in Nogales, said they were ready to work with the administration to ensure people are able to seek protection in the U.S., which is a right under U.S. and international law.