When will Joe Biden end Title 42 for immigrants at border?

Democratic leaders are increasing pressure on President Joe Biden to do away with a public health order that prevents migrants from entering the country, citing a nationwide loosening of pandemic-era restrictions and the presence of Ukrainian refugees at the southern border as reasons to end the program.

It’s the latest salvo in what has become a significant point of contention between the White House and top Democratic lawmakers and immigration groups over Title 42 — a policy put in place by former President Donald Trump that Biden has maintained, despite pledges to overhaul the nation’s immigration system.

“As our nation recovers from the pandemic, it is far past time to restore access to legal and lifesaving asylum at our borders,” said Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Menendez, D-N.J., on a call with reporters Thursday.

Menendez said the pandemic is “hopefully coming to a new stage” and while the policy should never have been used, “there has been time to figure out how one appropriately processes those who are seeking asylum under our law.”

Title 42 is a public health order that allows the U.S. government to expel people who were recently in a country where a communicable disease is present, though immigration advocates argue both the Trump and Biden administrations have misused it to deny asylum claims from migrants at the border.

They say that Black migrants, including Haitians, have been particularly affected.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in early February extended the policy by 60 days, citing the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. It will come up for review again in April, unless the Biden administration decides to do away with it sooner.

Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer of New York, an otherwise staunch ally of the Biden administration, said Thursday on the same call as Menendez that “now’s the time to stop the madness.”

“President Biden must fulfill a promise to fully restore our refugee laws, bringing order to the border, and stop the use of Title 42 to justify these deportations,” Schumer said.

Schumer first urged for the administration to do away with the public health order last year, but the calls from him and other Democrats are growing louder amid the White House’s own stated desire to usher in a new era of the coronavirus pandemic with fewer restrictions.

Every state in the country, for instance, has already done away with or announced plans to let indoor mask mandates expire, as coronavirus cases across the country continue to plummet.

Menendez argued that Title 42 has increased the number of dangerous border crossings and “in many cases it has also increased the public health risk that the order claims to address,” calling it an inhumane and ineffective policy.

The Democratic senator said the CDC “should immediately rescind the Title 42 order to align with its recent relaxation of other COVID restrictions” and that he and a group of Hispanic senators had requested a meeting with Biden to discuss immigration issues such as Title 42.

“I have no doubt that if the administration decided that in fact it would no longer seek to use this policy that the CDC would follow,” he said.

A White House spokesman said the CDC would make the determination when to do away with Title 42.

“Anyone – regardless of country of origin – attempting to enter the country unlawfully will be subject to border restrictions — including possibly expulsion,” the spokesman said.

The CDC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In arguing for the order’s end, Schumer also invoked the military conflict between Russia and Ukraine, which according to the United Nations has led 2 million Ukrainian nationals to flee the country.

Schumer cited the presence of at least one family of Ukrainian migrants on the U.S.-Mexico border as an additional reason to get rid of Title 42. The senator offered an example of a mother and three children who he says were denied an asylum claim at a port of entry because of the public health order.

“They requested refuge at one of the ports of entry on our southern border but were turned away because of Title 42,” Schumer said. “This is not — this is not — who we are as a country.”

Advocates say that Title 42 disproportionately affects Black migrants at the border, including Haitians seeking entry.

“We are extremely worried by expelling and deporting people to Haiti. The United States is literally adding to the issue that we continue to deal with in Haiti, including gang violence, including internal migration, and we also see an uptick in people fleeing by sea,” said Guerline Jozef, executive director of the Haitian Bridge Alliance.

Jozef estimates the United States has returned about 20,000 Haitians to their country since the start of 2021.

Frustration over Biden’s lack of action, she added, has long since reached a boiling point.

“We believed in the idea of a better day,” Jozef said. “Unfortunately, we see that he has failed to deliver on his promise.”

Sergio Gonzales, executive director of the Immigration Hub, which organized the press call with Democratic lawmakers, told McClatchy separately that advocates are merely requesting that the administration return to the policies that were in place prior to the pandemic.

“This is not something that is new, but this a return to normal operations at the border, and having people actually be able to make a fair asylum claim.”

This story was originally published March 10, 2022 6:02 PM.

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Francesca is Senior White House Correspondent for McClatchy. She is an Emmy award-winning reporter, known for her coverage of campaigns, elections and the White House.She has covered three presidencies, dating back to former President Barack Obama, and the White House bids of numerous Democrats and Republicans, including Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and former President Donald Trump.Francesca is a member of the White House Correspondents’ Association board and a graduate of the William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Kansas.

Alex Roarty has written about the Democratic Party since joining McClatchy in 2017. He’s been a campaigns reporter in Washington since 2010, after covering politics and state government in Pennsylvania during former Gov. Ed Rendell’s second term.