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Demands that Biden administration end border-expulsion policy intensify

Paul Ratje for KERA News

Pressure is mounting on the Biden Administration to completely end a Trump-era policy that allows for rapid expulsion of asylum seekers at the southern border following a partial change to the directive issued last week.

Increased calls to end the policy come as the Texas-Mexico border continues to see the highest number of asylum seekers attempting to enter the United States with hopes of having their cases heard in immigration courts.

The policy, generally referred to as Title 42 after a provision in the United States Code, was announced in March of 2020 as a way to prevent the spread of COVID-19. It’s been kept in place despite a drop in cases domestically and allegations from immigrant rights and legal groups that it deprives migrants of their right to apply for relief in the U.S.

“Ahead of the second anniversary of this deadly policy’s implementation, we urge the Biden administration to choose a more humane path, end Title 42 expulsions for everyone, and instead move swiftly to implement a system that honors our legal and moral obligation to welcome people seeking safety,” Marielena Hincapié, the executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, said during a press call Thursday. “It's past time for President Biden to fulfill his promise of building a 21st-century immigration system that recognizes the dignity in us all.”

The CDC exempted unaccompanied immigrant minors from the policy last summer, but Texas-based federal District Judge Mark Pittman ruled against the Biden administration March 4 in a lawsuit filed by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.

But last week the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changed its guidance and exempted minors from the rule.

“In the current termination, CDC addresses the court’s concerns and has determined, after considering current public health conditions and recent developments, that expulsion of unaccompanied noncitizen children is not warranted to protect the public health,” the updated guidance states.

The agency is also scheduled to conduct its next 60-day review of the policy by March 30 and will then determine if the “order remains necessary”, according to a notice posted earlier this month.

That change should now extend to everyone, Hincapié said.

“While we welcomed the administration’s recent move last Friday to terminate the Title 42 expulsions for unaccompanied children as an important step, it is passed time for this administration to end the use of Title 42 and continue expelling people based on that failed deterrence policy for everyone,” she said.

Unauthorized crossings continue to climb

The pressure comes as the Texas sectors of the U.S. Border Patrol continue to be the busiest in the country for unauthorized crossings or attempted crossings. Through the first five months of the federal government’s current fiscal year, agents in the Rio Grande Valley sector have encountered 97,253 families or single adults subject to Title 42 protocols, according to Customs and Border Protection data updated March 3rd. That’s nearly 18,000 more than the next highest total of about 79,300 in the Tucson, Ariz. sector. The Del Rio and El Paso sectors have also seen high numbers, at 63,851 and 57,340, respectively. (The El Paso sector includes New Mexico.)

Advocates have also pointed to violence in Mexican border cities as another reason to end Title 42. According to a February report by Human Rights Watch, there have been about 8,700 reports of violence toward migrants who have been expelled to Mexico since Biden took office. They include kidnapping, rape, torture and other acts, according to the data.

The policy has also led asylum seekers to attempt to cross the border several times, something Human Rights Watch said has aided smuggling groups who prey on the migrants.

“These counterproductive policies have also been a boon to the brutal criminal cartels in Mexico that present a serious threat to both U.S. security and the lives of the asylum seekers who are turned back to areas under their control,” the report states.

The pressure on the Biden administration to end the policy will continue next week as a coalition of faith-based and advocacy groups will hold a rally in Washington D.C.

The rally begins at the Trump Hotel and continue to the White House, organizers from CASA, a multi-state immigrant rights group, said in a statement Friday.

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Got a tip? Email Julián Aguilar at jaguilar@kera.org.You can follow Julián on Twitter @nachoaguilar.

Copyright 2022 KERA. To see more, visit KERA.

Julián Aguilar