President Biden came into office with a promise to reverse the Trump administration’s intentionally harsh policies for migrants who arrive at America’s border. However, as his first year in office comes to an end, his administration still continues to rely heavily on one of those policies: Title 42, an emergency public health order that authorizes the government to turn away migrants at the country’s borders in the event of a pandemic.
According to the Biden administration, the border patrol agents are simply following orders from the CDC that were put in place to keep the country safe from COVID-19. However, there is little doubt that the policy was implemented as a stopgap solution to swiftly evacuate migrants who had gathered in huge numbers at the southern border.
Congressional investigators revealed evidence by a former senior CDC official, who confessed that the policy had little public health justification because the virus had already spread across the country by the time the Title 42 order was signed. Although the Biden administration has made certain humanitarian exceptions to Title 42, such as unaccompanied children, activists and foreign agencies, many are still forced to return to dismal camps in Mexico, where they face violence and threats from traffickers and cartels.
Meanwhile, many officials in the Department of Homeland Security are angry because many migrants caught crossing the border illegally are simply returned to Mexico where they try their luck again another day. Instead of detaining and prosecuting illegal border crossers, both the Trump and Biden administrations used Title 42 to rapidly remove them. Trying to sneak across, again and again, has little cost under the policy. Half of the single individuals deported under Title 42 attempt to re-enter the country illegally. One of the reasons for the large number of interactions is this issue.
What is wrong at the border did not break in the last few months. It has been broken for a long time. It will take time and help from Congress to rectify, however, the administration must put in more effort to transform a system that is all too often chaotic into one that is more organized and just. The majority of American people simply want a secure border where individuals can enter legally, criminals can be detained and people who are in true danger of losing their lives may request asylum.
Title 42 must be revoked, not only because it is ethically and legally dubious, but also because the COVID-19 pandemic is winding down. The reason for its usage is fading as the border opens to vaccinated tourists and it becomes easier to screen and vaccinate migrants at ports of entry. In September, a federal court ordered the use of Title 42 to be discontinued, but the Biden administration appealed the decision.
It is past time to establish a more permanent policy. The government has already made several significant moves in this approach.
Alejandro Mayorkas, the first immigrant to hold the position of Secretary of Homeland Security, wants to use asylum officers instead of judges to assess applications more quickly. This reform, which is based on a strategy devised by the Migration Policy Institute, should aid in the reduction of the massive accumulation of cases.
In addition, the Biden administration has begun key conversations with Latin American allies to build a regional plan for mass migration. While it must play a role, the United States is not the sole refugee destination. Other nations have been vital in offering chances for those fleeing poverty, natural disasters, and conflict.
Colombia has granted more than a million Venezuelans who were escaping economic collapse temporary legal status, a praiseworthy measure that permits them to work lawfully. Following the earthquake in Haiti, Brazil provided work visas to around 98,000 Haitians, and Chile granted permanent residency to approximately 70,000 Haitians.
People who have previously “firmly relocated” to another nation are not eligible for asylum in the United States. However, immigration attorneys believe that a temporary work permit in Chile or Brazil without a road to permanent legal residency should not prevent Haitians from claiming permanent asylum in the United States. To nations that agree to relocate refugees, American officials should provide greater financial and logistical help, as well as additional COVID-19 vaccines. Mass migration, like pandemics and climate change, can only be dealt with by working together with our neighbors.
Finally, increasing legal pathways for migrants to request authorization to work seasonally or live in the United States from their home countries might offer them faith that they would be rewarded if they wait their time. This might help to reduce the number of migrants attempting the treacherous journey north.