Biden Is Still Turning Away Migrants at the Border
Trump-era Covid-19 border policies are being carried over to the new administration
For weeks, pundits, conservative politicians, and anonymous Border Patrol sources have been warning of a crisis brewing at the U.S.-Mexico border. They claim there’s a “surge” in migrant families and unaccompanied children arriving at the border each day and that the Biden administration — which promised to take a softer stance on immigration than its predecessor — is being overwhelmed by record numbers of unauthorized migrants.
But the real crisis at the border is that most people still aren’t being let in. Almost a year ago, the U.S. abandoned its legal responsibility to asylum-seekers using a little-known health statute called Title 42 to turn them away. And President Joe Biden has not reversed Donald Trump’s move, even as he has undone other policies implemented under the Trump administration. Biden has touted his commitment to reform the U.S. immigration system, but his reluctance to lift Title 42 points to a central contradiction underpinning his entire philosophy on immigration: justice for immigrants who are already here but not necessarily for those who want or need to come in the future.
Title 42 was invoked by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in March 2020 to shut down the border. The statute gives public health officials power to ban a person or groups of people from entering the U.S. if there’s “serious danger of the introduction of” a “communicable disease.” At the time, the U.S. already had more than 13,000 confirmed coronavirus cases. CDC officials tried to push back against Trump and resist his instructions to close down the border to unauthorized migrants, arguing that there was no public health justification for shutting down the border. But the president prevailed: The border was closed off to asylum-seekers, and it’s stayed shut since.
Since then, more than half a million people have been “expelled” from the U.S. under the authority of Title 42, according to Customs and Border Protection data. Under normal circumstances, migrants who arrive at the border would be processed by immigration authorities and put in deportation proceedings — a process that can take months or even years. Under…