WASHINGTON — Democrats at a U.S. House Homeland Security panel hearing on Wednesday welcomed the end of a Trump-era policy that turned away migrants seeking asylum at the border.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the so-called Title 42 policy, enacted for public health reasons at the start of the pandemic, will end on May 23.
“This order was a pretext to close the border to blacks, browns and indigenous people,” said the chair of the border security, facilitation and operations subcommittee, Nanette Barragán.
“Leading medical experts have consistently argued throughout the use of Title 42 that there was never a solid public health rationale for closing our border only to asylum seekers,” the official said. California Democrat.
However, the announcement has sparked debate – several Democrats in the US Senate are breaking away from the Biden administration’s decision to lift the policy, while Republicans continue to strongly criticize it and predict an increase in immigration.
Prominent Homeland Security panel member Republican Clay Higgins of Louisiana said on Wednesday that many migrants would come to the United States, and he stoked fears that drugs and drug cartels could take control of the border.
“These cartels run a large, well-organized network of drug and human trafficking,” he said.
Higgins said the United States could not handle the nearly 2 million border encounters last year and would not be able to handle that many migrants.
Under the Title 42 policy, more than one million migrants were deported, according to US Customs and Border Protection data.
Barragán said Poland, which is almost the size of New Mexico, has taken in more than 2 million refugees fleeing war in Ukraine. She added that Title 42 was not enforced in all areas, as Ukrainians could seek asylum at the US border.
“To be clear, Ukrainians should be allowed to enter the United States and seek humanitarian protection,” she said. “But so are Haitians, Hondurans, Guatemalans, Africans and others fleeing violence.”
Higgins said he does not work for Poland.
“I work for American citizens,” he said.
These cartels operate a large, well-organized drug and human trafficking network.
– Rep. Clay Higgins, R-Louisiana
One of the witnesses, Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, who works as a senior policy adviser for the US Immigration Council, addressed Republican concerns about drugs entering the United States via Mexico.
“There is very little fentanyl crossing the border on the backs of migrants,” he said.
Reichlin-Melnick said most drugs arrive by mail and vehicles at ports of entry. He added that drug detection technology at ports of entry would be crucial in helping border officials seize more drugs.
No bigger immigration plan
Democrats aren’t necessarily united in ending Title 42 without a broader plan in place to deal with immigration.
US Senate Democrats near the border, such as Arizona’s Mark Kelly and Krysten Sinema, called the end of the policy a mistake.
“It’s the wrong decision,” Kelly said in a statement. “From my many visits to the southern border and my conversations with Arizona law enforcement, community leaders, mayors and nonprofit organizations, it is clear that the lack of a this administration to address this crisis will further strain our border communities.”
“Today’s decision to announce the end of Title 42 when no full plan is ready yet shows a lack of understanding of the crisis on our border,” Sinema said.
Kelly and Sinema co-wrote a letter earlier saying Title 42 should not be discontinued without a broader policy in place, given the impact on border communities.
Other Senate Democrats who have expressed concerns about the end of Title 42 include Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Jon Tester of Montana.
“The end of Title 42 should lead to a significant increase in migration to the United States and put more pressure on an already broken system. These issues not only affect the southern border, but also put more pressure on those working to secure the northern border,” wrote Tester, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, asking for a comprehensive plan after the end of title 42.
Republicans have pledged to reinstate the Title 42 program if they regain the House in the midterm elections, though it was enacted by the CDC, not Congress.
Removing the policy will allow non-US citizens crossing the border to seek asylum, which is not guaranteed unless they can make a legal case for seeking refuge in the United States.
GOP on offense
Since the CDC announced the removal of Title 42, Republicans have held press conferences criticizing the Biden administration for the agency’s decision and have urged the administration to keep the policy in place.
The White House has distanced itself from its role in the matter, saying any decision on whether to continue the policy rests with the CDC.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy held a briefing on Monday with the union group representing border patrol officers, the National Border Patrol Council, where those officers voiced their disapproval of the lifting of Title 42.
McCarthy said he and other GOP members would visit the border in late April.
“How many people have already started coming to the border knowing what will happen on May 23?” said McCarthy.
Accelerated asylum applications
Ahead of the CDC’s announcement, the Biden administration announced a new policy in late March aimed at fast-tracking asylum applications at the U.S.-Mexico border in a bid to resolve a years-long backlog that numbers about 1.5 million. case.
The Departments of Justice and Homeland Security have issued a rule allowing U.S. Citizenship and Immigration officials — rather than immigration judges — to make decisions on migrant border applications that they cannot return to their country of origin for fear of death, torture or persecution. . This rule would not apply to unaccompanied children.
In a briefing with reporters, Department of Homeland Security officials also said they had been planning for the end of Title 42 for months and sent hundreds of law enforcement officials to the border to help. to treatment, and would continue to send agents.
Get morning headlines delivered to your inbox