Biden Is Ending the COVID Policy That Sends Migrants Back to Mexico

“The policy was specious from the beginning. It wasn’t about public health then and it isn’t now,” said one immigration rights advocate.
A mother holds her child as asylum-seeking migrants rest in a migrant shelter on July 21, 2021 in Tijuana, Mexico.
A mother holds her child as asylum-seeking migrants rest in a migrant shelter on July 21, 2021 in Tijuana, Mexico. Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images.

The Biden administration plans on rescinding a border policy that resulted in tens of thousands of migrants being automatically expelled to Mexico or deported to another country, according to several news reports.

The border policy, known as Title 42, is a pandemic-era remnant of the Trump administration that justifies expelling migrants seeking protection in the U.S. under the rationale that they pose a public health risk. The Biden administration came to rely on the policy to control the number of migrants entering the U.S., even as public health experts said it no longer had a health basis.


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta has stated that “there is no longer a serious danger” that migrants could fuel the spread of COVID-19 in immigration detention facilities, according to the Wall Street Journal, which saw a draft of the order rescinding the policy that’s expected to be released later this week.

But the CDC plans to give the administration until late May to wind down the policy in order to prepare for an expected influx of migrants at the border. That delay has drawn criticism from immigration advocates, who worry another COVID outbreak could give the Biden administration ammunition to walk back the plan and say the delay is unjustified.  

“Maybe a month doesn't seem long. But each day @POTUS fails to #EndTitle42 is another day he intentionally places asylum seekers' lives at risk. In that month, Biden will have sent thousands more to face serious risks of rape, kidnapping, assault, etc.,” tweeted Ariana Sawyer, a border researcher at Human Rights Watch. 
“The policy was specious from the beginning. It wasn’t about public health then and it isn’t now,” said Eleanor Acer, senior director for refugee protection at Human Rights First. “It certainly is long past time to end the policy. We do have some real questions about what the administration intends to do over the coming 2 months.”

When Title 42 was rolled out in March 2020, migrants who sought to enter the U.S. were expelled back to Mexico automatically, without giving them a chance to even start the immigration process. The Biden administration went further, using Title 42 flights to Haiti, Colombia and other countries to immediately “expel” asylum seekers. More recently, Russian asylum seekers fleeing persecution at the border have also been turned back under the policy.

The so-called public health policy has become the most effective immigration deterrent, with government officials expelling well over a million people under the rule.


Currently, thousands of asylum seekers have sought refuge in shelters and encampments along the Mexican side of the border waiting for the end of the policy and the chance to seek asylum. That has raised fears of a mass wave of people trying to enter the U.S., which promises to create a logistical headache and a political quandary for Democrats, as they try to project control over the southern border. The Department of Homeland Security has warned that the number of migrants entering the U.S. could triple to as many as 18,000 migrants per day, according to The Washington Post.

Republicans immediately condemned the decision to lift the rule, claiming it would fuel chaos at the border. 

“The Biden Admin is on the precipice of unleashing one of history’s most spectacular travesties — the full-scale revocation of T42 would open the floodgates on a biblical scale,” tweeted Stephen Miller, former President Donald Trump’s chief advisor on immigration. 

“Biden’s plan to lift Title 42 at our border is a recipe for chaos during an already out of control crisis at our border,” tweeted Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma.  

On Wednesday, a coalition of 22 mostly Republican Congressmen from Texas sent a letter to the Biden administration urging it to keep Title 42 in place. 

They said the Department of Homeland Security “appears woefully unprepared” to transition away from the policy.