Title 42 border restrictions have been in effect for 3 years this week

By Alisa Reznick
Published: Thursday, March 23, 2023 - 7:58am

Title 42
U.S. Customs and Border Protection
ICE Air Operations transport Mexican nationals to the interior of Mexico under Title 42 in May 2020.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention enacted Title 42 three years ago this week.

The public health protocol is a provision of the Public Health Service Act of 1944 and it officially gives federal authorities the power to deny people from entering the U.S. to prevent the spread of disease. 

But what started as an obscure and rarely-used public health protocol has transformed border and immigration policy. In practice, Title 42 has allowed border officers to send migrants quickly back to Mexico without giving them a chance to ask for asylum — despite U.S. and international laws that require it.

The CDC enacted the protocol on March 20th of 2020 — just days after then President Trump declared COVID-19 a national emergency.

Title 42 has been used more than 2.5 million times along the U.S.-Mexico border since then, according to Customs and Border Enforcement data. It’s expected to come to a close in May as the original national emergency comes to an end.