The majority of Americans oppose the Biden administration’s decision to end a public health order used to expel migrants at the U.S. border, according to a new POLITICO-Harvard survey, underscoring how a law designed to stop the spread of disease is now widely seen as the best way to control immigration.
The survey found that 55 percent of American adults oppose ending the use of the order, known as Title 42, to prevent migrants from entering the U.S., compared to 45 percent who think the order should end.
The findings come as a Louisiana judge issued a preliminary injunction on Friday blocking the administration from ending the order on Monday, which would have allowed thousands of migrants arriving at the U.S. border each day to enter immigration system and apply for asylum for the first time in over two years.
The Biden administration came under fire from Republican lawmakers and many Democrats after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which authorizes the order, announced it would end this month, citing improved public health conditions and the availability of vaccines and treatments.
Critics say the government is not prepared to handle the surge of migrants that the order’s end might bring. The Department of Homeland Security has said it is preparing for as many as 18,000 migrants to arrive on a daily basis when the order ends.
More than 20 states signed on to a legal challenge to allow the migrant expulsions to continue in a Louisiana court, saying the CDC had not followed the correct procedure ending the order and failed to consider the impact of their decision on states. A Trump-appointed judge on Friday ruled in their favor, granting a preliminary injunction to prevent the order from ending.
The fact that so many Americans also support using a public health measure to stop immigration unrelated to the pandemic is ultimately a reflection of lawmakers’ failure to make progress on immigration reform, said Robert Blendon, a professor of health policy and political analysis, emeritus, at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
“They’re taking something used to control epidemics and are fighting for it because they know there’s no way to reach an agreement over immigration,” he says. “Congress can’t agree what to do, and they’re using it as a fig leaf a public health emergency measure.”
The poll’s findings suggest that individuals’ support for keeping the order in place is informed both by their attitude toward immigration and their political affiliation.
Among those who said they think there should be less immigration into the U.S., opposition to ending the order rose to 77 percent, while 72 percent of people who support more immigration think the order should end. Eighty-one percent of Republicans oppose ending Title 42, compared to just 36 percent of Democrats.
Since Title 42 was first enacted in March 2020, there have been more than 1.7 million expulsions under the policy, rendering the public health law a de facto immigration control