WASHINGTON (AP) – The Biden administration relies on controversial Trump-era policies as it distributes thousands of Haitian migrants along the US-Mexico border in and around the small town of Del Rio, South Texas.
Much to the dismay of migrant lawyers, the Department of Homeland Security is relying on the Public Health Act known as Title 42 to Arrest Haitians Quickly and Return to their Troubled Homeland and deny them the opportunity to recruit Apply for asylum entitlement to stay in the United States.
DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said Monday that most of the Haitians evicted from Del Rio camp have been expelled under Title 42 authority, angering human rights activists and others who had hoped the government would end the policy who had otherwise tried to undo much of Trump’s immigration agenda.
A look at the law and the controversy associated with it:
WHAT IS TITLE 42 AND WHY ARE WE TALKING ABOUT IT NOW?
Title 42 of the Public Health Service Act gives federal health officials the power to take extraordinary measures to limit the transmission of an infectious disease during a pandemic.
It is not a new power. The agency has existed in various forms since 1893. The Trump administration invoked it in March 2020 with full effect, banning virtually everyone from Mexico and Canada, and essentially sealing the northern and southern borders.
It was supposed to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in cramped border guards or in immigration and customs facilities. Critics of the policy see this as a barely veiled measure to thwart immigration and point out that it deprives people of the right to seek asylum or to remain in the US through any other legal means.
Former federal health officials told The Associated Press last year that the Trump administration had overridden government scientists who said there was no evidence invoking Title 42 would slow the coronavirus. Still, the public health order remains in place and hundreds of thousands of people have been expelled under its supervision.
WHAT HAPPENS UNDER BIDEN?
President Joe Biden has overturned many Trump policies that target both legal and illegal immigration. But the new administration has kept Title 42 as COVID-19 continues to rage around the world and the number of migrants wanting to enter the US on the southwestern border, partly due to the economic upheaval from the pandemic and general conditions in the US Central America, Haiti and elsewhere continue to rage.
The Biden administration has stopped the Trump-era practice of deporting unaccompanied children to Mexico and has allowed some migrants traveling with their children to pursue asylum applications or other legal residence in the US. But it has expelled tens of thousands of adults and families under Title 42, insisting that it is a public health measure rather than an immigration policy.
The American Civil Liberties Union and others filed a class action lawsuit to end family deportations. They appeared to be winning a victory last week when a federal judge in Washington said using Title 42 in this manner was likely illegal. He said he would instruct the government to stop deporting families in two weeks. But within hours, the administration said they would appeal.
“The Biden administration claims they want to distance themselves from the inhumane asylum policy of the Trump administration,” said ACLU attorney Lee Gelernt. “Still, it has retained the most extreme of all policies, the Title 42 policy that literally puts families into the hands of persecutors and cartels.”
WHAT HAPPENS IN DEL RIO?
In the past few days, thousands of migrants from Haiti have tried to enter the United States at the Del Rio border crossing. Haitians have been trying to get into the country across the southwest border for years, but it’s not clear what moved so many to congregate in this one place.
In May, the Biden government granted temporary protection status to Haitians who were already in the United States, but that does not apply to the people who congregate near Del Rio.
When an increasingly miserable camp was built under a bridge on the US side of the border, the authorities began detaining the migrants and then deporting them. Mayorkas said some are under “expedited deportation,” where the US is quick to deport low-level immigrant offenders. But most, he said, would be classified under Title 42, which he carefully outlined as a public health measure.
“Irregular migration poses a significant threat to the health and well-being of border communities and the lives of migrants themselves and should not be attempted,” he said.