Biden looking to delay end to Title 42 mass expulsions of migrants at US-Mexico border

The Biden White House is looking to delay or reverse its pledge to terminate next month the policy known as Title 42, which sanctions the summary expulsion of migrants from Central and South America and the Caribbean who seek entry into the US from Mexico under the guise of combating the spread of COVID-19.

Customs and Border Protection officers and agents process a small group of asylum-seekers who have active applications under the Migrant Protection Protocols at the Paso del Norte Port of Entry in El Paso, Texas, February 26, 2021. (CBP photo by Glenn Fawcett)

With his poll numbers plummeting and a virtual revolt by Democratic lawmakers who fear losing their positions in the November midterm elections, Biden is thrashing about for the best way to capitulate to a crescendo of attacks by Trump and the Republicans on the so-called immigrant “invasion” across the southern border.

The GOP has seized on the announced end of Title 42 to double down on its charge that Biden and the Democrats support “open borders” and the flooding of America with criminals, gang members and drug dealers from Central and South America.

The Republicans are at the same time using their parity in the Senate and near-parity in the House to block a bill for anti-COVID resources and possibly a bill to fund more military aid to Ukraine, unless they include provisions to block the lifting of Title 42. Democrats in both chambers, including Hispanic members and others from border states, are signaling their readiness to support such amendments.

The Democrats’ crisis over Title 42 has come to a head this week. On Monday, a federal district judge in Louisiana announced that he would rule in favor of 21 Republican state attorneys general who filed suit to block the lifting of Title 42 until the Department of Homeland Security presented a plan to Congress to “secure the border” following such a move.

The judge said he would issue a temporary restraining order that would block any departure from the strict provisions of Title 42 prior to its being lifted, unless the Biden administration comes to an agreement with the states that had sued it. He did not, however, make clear when he would issue the order or whether it would block the removal of Title 42 itself.

On the same day, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy led a group of far-right Republicans, including the fascist Marjorie Taylor Greene, to the border town of Eagle Pass, Texas. At a press conference, McCarthy said he would seek to impeach Homeland Security Director Alejandro Mayorkas should the Republicans take control of the House in November and he become House speaker.

Also on Monday, Biden held a closed-door 90-minute meeting with selected members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, who deferentially praised the president and vouched for his supposed commitment to lifting Title 42.

On Tuesday, Politico reported that a “senior administration official” said on a call with reporters, “If and when the court issues the TRO [temporary restraining order] the department is planning to comply with that order.” The official reportedly criticized the Republican suit on the grounds that keeping Title 42 in place would hinder the arrest, jailing and deportation of undocumented migrants and the “securing” of the border.

He made what has become the main argument of the Biden administration: that mandatory expulsions encourage migrants to try to cross the border multiple times, because, unlike under the administration’s preferred method of “expedited removal,” repeat offenders cannot be criminally charged and jailed.

The official made the call to introduce a 20-page plan issued by the Department of Homeland Security to step up the crackdown on the border and halt the expected surge in border crossings once Title 42 is lifted.

The main provisions of the plan are:

  • Stepped up use of expedited removal to quickly deport migrants found ineligible for asylum and a surge in border personnel, transportation and supplies.
  • Increased prosecution of repeat border crossers and forging agreements with countries across Latin America to increase deportations and block migrants from reaching the US border.
  • A dedicated intelligence unit to monitor groups of immigrants moving up through Latin America to help break up those groups before they reach the border.
  • Increased Border Patrol holding capacity to accommodate up to 18,000 migrants a day, as compared to 13,000 at the beginning of 2021.

On Wednesday, Mayorkas testified before two House committees, where he was attacked by Republicans for refusing to state that the US is being overrun by criminal “illegals” and doing nothing to stop it. None of the Democrats denounced the brutal immigration policy of the Biden administration or the plans to make it even more repressive if and when Title 42 is removed.

The background to Title 42

The brutal policy of mass expulsions known as Title 42 was initiated in March 2020 by the Trump administration as part of its fascistic anti-immigrant vendetta. In line with his overall continuation of Trump’s anti-immigrant policies, Biden has maintained and, until recently, defended Title 42 as a public health measure.

Trump’s chief immigration advisor, the Hitler-lover Stephen Miller, came up with the idea of using the spreading COVID-19 pandemic as the pretext for invoking the little-known provision of a 1944 public health law as a club to terrorize and expel migrants seeking to cross the southern border, including those seeking asylum, without a shred of due process.

Human Rights Watch cites Olivia Troye, a former top aide to then-Vice President Mike Pence, who coordinated Trump’s White House coronavirus task force, as saying, “The policy was called a ‘Stephen Miller special.’”