Biden to lift Trump-era pandemic restrictions on US-Mexico border, reports say

White House ‘planning for multiple contingencies’ as immigration advocates report thousands of human rights abuses along southern border under Title 42

Alex Woodward
New York
Wednesday 30 March 2022 20:53 BST
US-Mexico border: Biden’s immigration policy slammed
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President Joe Biden’s administration is expected to lift a public health order imposed by Donald Trump that blocked most asylum seekers from the US-Mexico border during the Covid-19 pandemic, according to reports citing administration officials familiar with the move.

The so-called Title 42 provisions invoked by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at the onset of the public health crisis effectively suspended asylum claims at points of entry, leading to the immediate expulsion of 1.7 million people without presenting their cases, according to US Customs and Border Protection data.

The administration is expected to revoke the order by 23 May, and CDC officials will announce its decision over whether to extend the order’s authority this week, according to reports from the Associated Press, The Wall Street Journal and CNN.

Earlier this month, the CDC relaxed its criteria to exempt unaccompanied, non-citizen children from expulsion, and US Customs and Border Protection has also authorised officers on a “case-by-case basis” to exempt Ukrainian nationals in the wake of Russia’s assault on the country.

While the administration has moved to ease some Trump-era border restrictions following his predecessor’s hardline anti-immigration agenda, advocates and progressive legislators have pressured the White House to lift the order, pointing to mounting humanitarian crises along the southern border, a series of court rulings, and human rights abuses facing asylum seekers who have been turned away from the border into more-dangerous and vulnerable territories.

White House communications director Kate Bedingfield told reporters on 30 March that the administration has “long deferred” the fate of Title 42 to the CDC.

“That being said, of course we are planning for multiple contingencies,’‘ she told reporters, adding that the administration expects an “influx” of people to the border should pandemic restrictions be lifted.

US law provides that anyone entering the country is eligible to apply for asylum, a form of humanitarian protection for those fleeing violence and persecution from their home countries. Critics have accused the administration of relying on Title 42 provisions to sidestep US law and obligations under international treaty, as White House officials have repeatedly pointed to the Trump administration’s dismantling of the nation’s immigration system.

A coalition of human rights organisations have tracked nearly 10,000 reports of kidnappings, rapes and other violent assaults against people blocked from the border or expelled into Mexico under Title 42 under the Biden administration.

According to the human rights organisation WOLA, nearly 14,000 Haitians have been expelled under the provision, returning them to a country in the aftermath of earthquakes and political chaos.

US Department of Homeland Security officials have signalled that as many as 18,000 migrants are expected to arrive each day, while an immigration court case backlog has grown to more than 1.7 million.

Advocates have argued that the rise in migrants is a predictable increase following two years of rejections and expulsions, while calling for the administration to drastically staff up its immigration courts and asylum system.

Federal agencies in coordination with state and local authorities are expected to provide support, including medical assistance and temporary facilities to process migrants arriving at the border, should the order be lifted.

John Bowden contributed reporting from Washington, DC

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