For three years, US border officials have prevented hundreds of thousands of migrants from entering the United States under emergency health rule Title 42. But on Thursday, the pandemic-era policy has ended. As the Biden administration prepares for the change, US officials say they have been preparing for a surge of migrants crossing the Mexico-United States border.
Here’s what to know about Title 42, and what lifting it could mean.
What is Title 42?
After the Trump Administration announced a COVID-19 public health emergency in March 2020, Title 42 was put in place under the premise of preventing the spread of COVID-19. The public health measure granted border officials the authority to expel migrants without giving them the opportunity to seek asylum.
Top Democrats criticized the rule as an excuse for the United States to get out of processing asylum applications.
Under American law and international treaty, the United States is obligated to provide a haven to people fleeing persecution.
The health order has caused migrants to be expelled from the United States without the opportunity to seek asylum more than 1.7 million times since March 2020.
Why is Title 42 ending?
The policy’s end comes with President Biden’s decision to end the COVID-19 public health emergency nationally after Biden first extended the emergency in January 2021.
As the world returned closer to normalcy, restricting those seeking asylum from entering the country became more difficult to defend on scientific grounds as mask mandates were lifted, vaccination rates climbed, and COVID-19 rates dropped among migrants crossing from Mexico.
The policy will end Thursday at midnight.
What could be the impact of lifting Title 42?
US officials are expecting to see more migrants crossing the border after May 11, with some expressing concern over the end of immigration limits.
“We’ve been preparing for quite some time and we are ready. What we are expecting is indeed a surge. And what we are doing is planning for different levels of a surge,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said last week during a visit to southern Texas. But he also stressed that the situation at the border is “extremely challenging.”
What other policies could the Biden administration implement after ending Title 42?
Title 42 put a pause on asylum processing, and the end of pandemic-era border controls has pushed US officials to create more legal migration pathways and open processing centers abroad to handle the number of migrants entering the country.
With the end of Title 42, the Biden administration announced a new rule, the “Circumvention of Lawful Pathways,” which encourages migrants to find legal pathways to enter the country, according to the Federal Register. While the policy aims to deter illegal immigration and reduce migrants’ reliance on human smuggling networks that exploit them for financial gain, critics say otherwise.
Immigration advocates have criticized the administration’s new policy, known as the Asylum Transit Ban, which deters those who arrive at the southern border unless they have first sought and have been denied asylum in at least one country they traveled through. Critics note that the policy is similar to a 2019 policy, the “Third Country Asylum Rule,” by the Trump administration that was struck down by multiple federal courts as unlawful.
How many migrants have been coming through the border?
US Customs and Border Protection officials have ramped up the expulsion of migrants in the past few weeks, with officials facilitating such expulsions three times a day. Roughly 30,000 migrants, mostly from Venezuela, have entered the United States since mid-April. In comparison, Border Patrol agents encountered 1,700 migrants in the first two weeks of April.
Material from The Associated Press was included in this report.