The United States is getting ready to lift COVID-19 restrictions that have blocked migrants caught at the U.S.-Mexico border from seeking asylum since 2020, a major policy shift with humanitarian and political implications.
WHAT IS TITLE 42?
The COVID restrictions, known as Title 42, were first implemented under Republican then-President Donald Trump in March 2020 at the beginning of the pandemic. At the time, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said the order was needed to stem the spread of the coronavirus in crowded detention settings.
Title 42 allowed border agents to rapidly expel many migrants to Mexico, but some public health experts, Democrats and advocates criticized its health justification, saying it was part of Trump’s goal of curbing legal and illegal immigration.
President Joe Biden, a Democrat, took office in 2021 vowing to reverse Trump’s restrictive approach, but kept Title 42 in place and expanded it as his administration grappled with record migrant arrests at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Since its inception, migrants have been expelled more than 2.7 million times under Title 42, although the total includes many repeat crossers and Mexico has generally only accepted certain nationalities.
WHAT IS HAPPENING THIS MONTH?
The Biden administration intends to lift Title 42 next Thursday when the U.S. COVID public health emergency ends.
Migrants caught crossing the border will again be able to request asylum, a process that can take years to resolve.
U.S. border officials are preparing for a possible increase in illegal crossings, the result of pent-up demand and the perception among migrants that they will be allowed in.
WHAT IS THE PLAN ONCE TITLE 42 IS GONE?
To deter would-be migrants after the order is lifted, the Biden administration plans to issue a new regulation. It would deny asylum to most migrants caught crossing if they passed through another country en route to the U.S. without seeking protection or failed to use other legal pathways, which Biden has expanded.