Title 42 confuses Washington and migrants alike

The long-running saga of Title 42, the set of emergency powers that allows border officials from USA turn away migrants quickly, has been chaotic on the border with Mexico. In Washington it has not developed much better.

The Supreme Court is weighing whether to keep the powers in place after months of legal battles launched by Republican-ruled states after the Joe Biden administration decided to end the policy of the era of donald trumpwhich was to expire this week until the court agreed to hear the case.

The government has yet to put in place systemic changes to manage an expected surge in immigrants if the restrictions come to an end. And a bipartisan immigration bill in the Congress it has been buried just as the Republicans are about to take control of the House of Representatives.

In short, America is back to where it’s been. A divided nation cannot agree on what a long-term solution to the immigration system should look like. Basic questions—for example, should more immigrants be allowed in, or fewer?—remain unanswered. Meanwhile, the asylum system remains under intense strain from the growing number of migrants arriving.

The Biden administration has been reluctant to take any hardline steps resembling those of his predecessor. That resulted in a barrage of criticism from Republicans, who are using Title 42 to accuse the president of being ineffective when it comes to border security. The rules were introduced as an emergency health measure to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“The Democrats have lost the narrative war on this,” said Charles Foster, a Texas immigration attorney who was a former immigration policy adviser to Republican President George W. Bush but now considers himself an independent. “The tragedy is that Democrats, more than anyone, should be focused on this issue, because unless and until it is fixed, and perception changes, we will never get anything through Congress.”

Anyone who comes to the United States has the right to apply for asylum, but the laws set a narrow margin on who actually gets it. Under the Biden administration, migrants who arrive at the border often enter the country and are allowed to work while their cases are resolved. That process takes years to reach a conclusion due to a backlog of 2 million cases in the immigration court system that was exacerbated by Trump-era rules.

Title 42 allows border officials to deny people the right to apply for asylum, and they have done so 2.5 million times since March 2020. The emergency health authority has been disproportionately applied to people from countries that Mexico agreed to receive back: Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, and more recently Venezuela, in addition to the Mexicans.

“There will not be a good time, politically speaking,” to end the restrictions, said Jorge Loweree, of the activist group American Immigration Council. The government should have been preparing all this time to create a better system for asylum seekers, he added.

“You have allowed the other party to weaponize this problem. And the longer it remains in force, the longer the weapon will be effective, ”he stressed.

The authority of Title 42 was first invoked at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic by Trump, whose immigration policies were focused on keeping as many migrants out as possible. He also slashed the number of refugees allowed into the country, added restrictions to the asylum process that clogged the system, kept immigrants in detention, and narrowed the avenues for legal immigration.

Biden has worked to expand legal immigration and has removed some of Trump’s most restrictive policies. But his administration kept the policy in place until this spring, even expanding its use after announcing it would end.

Republicans say there will be even more chaos if he stands up. But even with Title 42 in effect, border officials have been encountering more migrants than ever before. In the budget year ending Sept. 30, immigrants were stopped 2.38 million times, up 37% from the 1.73 million times the previous year.

“I don’t know why it takes them so long to get serious about deterrence,” Republican Sen. Shelley Moore Capito said of the Biden administration. Capito is an incoming member of the Senate Republican leadership and the top Republican senator on the committee that oversees money going to the Department of Homeland Security, the federal agency in charge of border security.

Border officials have braced for an expected surge, and migrants who have arrived are unsure how asylum processes will work when the policy ends. Homeland Security officials have reported faster processing for immigrants detained at the border, more tents for temporary detention, staff increases and more criminal prosecutions against smugglers.

They say progress has been made on a plan announced in April, but large-scale changes are needed. Meanwhile, Senate Republican leaders have rejected a bipartisan immigration bill that would have addressed some of these issues.

The division does not only occur within Congress. One in 3 adult Americans believes a process is underway to replace native-born Americans with immigrants in order to win electoral victories, according to an AP-NORC poll.

Biden and his advisers have said they are working to divert migrants leaving Central America and to provide aid to the poorest nations from which large numbers of people leave for the United States. But what the president can do is limited if the Congress does not act.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the administration is increasing assistance to the border and will continue to do so. But “removing Title 42 doesn’t mean the border is open,” she warned. “Anyone who suggests otherwise is simply doing the job of those smugglers, who are once again spreading misinformation, which is very dangerous.”

The Senate approved a one-year spending bill Thursday that would give Border Patrol 17% more money, as well as an additional 13% for the Justice Department to develop an electronic case management system for immigration courts. .

But Citizenship and Immigration Services, which are central to the asylum process, only got a third of what Biden had proposed to speed up the system.

Democrats, for their part, say they want policies that reflect America’s reputation as a haven for those fleeing persecution. But they can’t agree on what those policies should be.

Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin has worked on the issue for 20 years. This week he stood on the floor of the Senate and sounded dejected as he spoke about Congress not being able to pass reform.

“It is a security and humanitarian nightmare that is only getting worse,” he said. “We are being inundated at the border by people who want to be in the United States, to be safe in the United States.”

Why can’t Washington figure out a better way? he questioned.


Associated Press writer Seung Min Kim contributed to this report.

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