Title 42 & Immigration: White House Considers Ending COVID-Inspired Migrant Family Expulsions

Asylum-seeking migrants cross the Rio Bravo river to turn themselves in to U.S. Border Patrol agents to request asylum in El Paso, Texas, May 11, 2021. (Jose Luis Gonzalez/Reuters)

The Biden administration is considering ending the use of Title 42, a Trump-era public health order that has allowed U.S. border officials to quickly expel migrant families to Mexico, as soon as next month, according to a new report.

Title 42 has been used to quickly turn back tens of thousands of migrant family members at the border. According to Axios, the White House is eyeing ending the use of the policy as early as July 31. 

While the rule was initially put in place during the pandemic to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, the report notes that top CDC officials and physicians who serve as consultants for the Department of Homeland Security have opposed using the public health order to expel migrants.

President Biden had reportedly been briefed on a plan for ending the policy by the end of next month, or allowing a court to end it.

The discussions come as the administration negotiates with the ACLU, which has placed a temporary hold on its lawsuit against the practice of expelling families. According to Axios, top administration officials have suggested Biden end the practice instead of allowing the ACLU suit to play out in court, which would force the Justice Department to defend the Trump-era policy.

They argue that a fight in court could result in sensitive information being released.

However, a White House official told the outlet that the decision to rescind the policy is “a public health decision that will be made ultimately on those grounds” and that the administration will not move before any CDC determinations.

Although thousands of families have been kicked back to Mexico under Title 42 in recent months, since March, the policy has been applied to less than half of family encounters.

Over the past four months alone, migrant adults have been expelled more than 350,000 times under the order. The Biden administration has acknowledged that ending the policy could lead to a surge of migrant families coming to the U.S.-Mexico border and could increase calls to also end Title 42 for single adults.

The report comes as the Biden administration has come under fire for months over its handling of the crisis at the border. While President Biden appointed Vice President Kamala Harris to be the administration’s point-person on the crisis, she has yet to visit the border to assess the situation herself.

Representative Henry Cuellar (D., Texas) sent a letter to Harris last week uring her to visit the southern border and observe the worsening crisis there. He noted the “severe burdens” the massive influx of migrant crossings has imposed on border patrol personnel and resources.

“The situation on the border will only worsen, as more migrants are expected to arrive,” Cuellar wrote. “The Administration needs to take a proactive approach to create a sustainable system of humanitarian aid and relieve everyday Americans of that responsibility.”

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