McALLEN, Texas—Border security experts expect the nation will bear the consequences of more illegal immigration whether the Biden administration ends a key public health measure by the end of the month or does it later.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced last month that the policy, known as Title 42, would expire May 23. President Joe Biden’s Department of Homeland Security has estimated that could mean an influx of 18,000 migrants a day who cross the border illegally.
“There are too many Democrats pushing back, too many Democrats terrified of the consequences, because the [Department of Homeland Security] itself, Biden’s DHS, was predicting a doubling or more of the flow across the border if they lifted Title 42,” Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, told The Daily Signal in a recent interview.
“But it is going to be lifted at some point,” Krikorian said of Title 42.
Sens. Gary Peters, D-Mich., and Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., are among the most vocal Democrats calling for the Biden administration to keep the public health policy in place.
Title 42 is a provision of a 1944 law meant to stop the spread of communicable disease. The provision allowed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to take emergency action in March 2020, during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, to authorize border authorities to quickly expel illegal immigrants and deny entry to asylum-seekers.
Although the measure hasn’t stopped huge numbers of illegal immigrants from crossing the southern border and immediately claiming asylum, it has made it easier for the Border Patrol to send back illegal aliens.
‘Enormous Pressure From Left’
Once Title 42 is gone, unlawful border crossers will have the right to have their asylum claims adjudicated on American soil.
“Unless Congress intervenes and passes a law saying they can keep it in place and the president signs it, it just seems to me it’s going to have to be lifted at some point because the president is also getting enormous pressure from this hard left,” Krikorian told The Daily Signal.
“When they do that,” he added, “it’s going to be bad news on the border and it’s going to be worse news for the Democratic Party, because the more they keep delaying it, the closer and closer it gets to the election.”
The Center for Immigration Studies, which advocates strict enforcement of the nation’s immigration laws and opposes amnesty for illegal immigrants, organized a visit to the border in South Texas last month that The Daily Signal joined.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas met Tuesday in Washington with Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard.
Mayorkas “spoke of the United States’ whole-of-government strategy to prepare for the CDC’s announced May 23, 2022, end to the exercise of its Title 42 authority,” according to the department’s readout of the meeting.
Expulsions Under Title 42
After the CDC invoked Title 42, the Border Patrol had about 2.9 million encounters with illegal immigrants at the U.S.-Mexico border between April 2020 and March 2022, according to a study by Pew Research. March is the most recent month for which such data is available.
About 1.8 million of those encounters, or 61%, resulted in illegal immigrants being expelled under Title 42, according to Pew. The 1.1 million remaining encounters ended with illegal immigrants being detained, at least temporarily, rather than sent back.
Expulsions were based largely on whether the migrants came as families and whether children were involved.
Under the Biden administration, about 88% of the 1.8 million expulsions since 2020 under Title 42 were of single adults, while 11% were families and 1% were unaccompanied minors.
About 60% of those expelled came from Mexico, 15% came from Guatemala, 14% from Honduras, 5% from El Salvador, and 6% from other countries, according to Pew.
COVID-19 isn’t the only public health concern to consider, said Chris Cabrera, spokesman for the union National Border Patrol Council Local 3307, which represents nonsupervisory Border Patrol employees who work in the Rio Grande Valley.
“It’s to the point where everybody I work with, every single person, has had COVID,” Cabrera told a group gathered in Texas for the border tour sponsored by the Center for Immigration Studies.
But, the union spokesman said, some Border Patrol agents have contracted communicable diseases while policing the border that doctors have had trouble diagnosing.
‘Spinning Your Wheels’
If Title 42 ends, it will bring more chaos to the southern border, said Michael Salinas, a retired Border Patrol agent who was on the front lines for 34 years.
“Pretty much, there’s going to be nobody out in the field,” Salinas told The Daily Signal.
“The Border Patrol knows where they’re at,” the veteran agent said of these so-called got-aways. “But if they don’t have access to it because they’re stuck processing or prepping people for transport to processing centers, it takes away from all that. So you’re just spinning your wheels.”
The Center for Immigration Studies’ Krikorian said he expects that Biden and congressional Democrats will try to kick the can down the road, but that it can’t go on forever.
Events may depend on what faction in the Biden administration prevails, he said:
There are two factions in the administration on this immigration issue. They both believe the same thing. In other words, everybody in the administration wants basically amnesty for all the illegals and unlimited immigration in the future, and all that stuff. It’s not really at all a policy dispute, it’s a political dispute.
Krikorian said White House chief of staff Ron Klain and Susan Rice, director of the Domestic Policy Council, are trying to take a more politically acceptable approach to illegal immigration in the short term.
“The people like Ron Klain and Susan Rice, who are at least a little bit more in touch with reality … the point is they’re more cautious politically,” Krikorian said. “But then everybody who’s in charge of immigration policy are radicals. They’re anti-borders radicals.”
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