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As the Biden administration prepares to quickly deport migrants camped under a bridge in Del Rio, Texas, its plan hinges on a controversial Trump-era policy put in place at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in order to speed up referrals.
Thousands of migrants – many of them from Haiti – have been camping in squalid conditions since last week. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas visited the site on Monday and pledged to step up return flights and deportation of migrants on arrival.
“If you come to the United States illegally, you will be sent back. Your trip will not be successful,” he told a press conference.
This deportation plan is based on a rarely used public health law known as Title 42. Immigration officials say a public health order from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention allows them to deport quickly migrants crossing the border without giving them the opportunity to seek asylum. .
President Biden took office promising a more humane immigration system. Yet his administration continued to use Title 42 policy – and defend it in court – despite increasing pressure from immigrant advocates.
How did politics come about and how is it challenged in the courts?
The Trump administration has long argued that migrants crossing the southern border were not considered refugees fleeing persecution and therefore were not protected by U.S. asylum law. As early as 2019, during a mumps epidemic long before the coronavirus pandemic, White House adviser Stephen Miller would have pushed to use Title 42 to turn back potential migrants, according to the New York Times.
In March 2020, as the coronavirus spread rapidly in the United States, the administration decided to invoke Title 42 to crack down on the border.
The government deported some 9,000 unaccompanied children who crossed the border before a federal judge ordered a preliminary injunction in November to end the practice. Judge Emmet Sullivan said Title 42 allows officials to block the entry of non-citizens with disease, but does not allow evictions. He ordered an injunction to end the expeditious evictions, though his order was later stayed by the DC Circuit Court of Appeals.
The Biden administration has made exceptions for unaccompanied migrant children. It has enabled the majority of parents and children arriving together to apply for asylum. But he continued to deport many more, including families and tens of thousands of single adults crossing the border.
On Friday, however, Judge Sullivan ordered a similar halt to the use of Title 42 to deny families with children, setting a two-week deadline for the administration to comply.
The administration is also appealing this decision.
Why is the Biden administration trying to keep Title 42 politics alive?
The Biden administration is defending its use of Title 42 as a public safety measure to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
“Title 42 is not an immigration authority, but a public health authority,” Mayorkas said. “To protect the American public. To protect communities along the border. And to protect the migrants themselves.”
But doctors and immigrant advocates say this is just a pretext to quickly deport migrants from the country – the most recent example being those sheltered under the international bridge at the port of entry of Del Rio.
“What people need to understand is that, yes, the situation in Haiti in Del Rio is horrible,” said Lee Gelernt, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union who fought Title 42 in the courts of two administrations. “But this is only the most recent dramatic illustration of what this Title 42 policy can do.”
Although Biden’s White House has rolled back some of former President Donald Trump’s toughest immigration policies, it is seeking a balance in order to deter more migrants from crossing the border.
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Border patrol chief Raul Ortiz said on Sunday the government had moved 3,300 people from the bridge camp to migrant processing facilities in San Antonio, Laredo and Eagle Pass. Ortiz said the local school system loaned buses to the effort, which he said was carried out in a “humane and timely manner.”
Officials say just over 300 have been pulled from flights to Haiti.
“We are working around the clock to quickly move migrants out of the heat, the elements and under this bridge to our processing facilities to quickly process and remove individuals from the United States in accordance with our laws and policies. “said Ortiz. noted.
Critics left and right have been unleashed against the administration’s handling of the situation in Del Rio. Hard-line supporters and some Republicans say the Biden administration is letting too many migrants in, while some Democrats say the White House is abandoning migrants.
What happens next?
Immigrant advocates say they will continue to fight in court to end Title 42. They say it is particularly cruel to implement it in this case, as Haiti is still recovering from a recent earthquake. land and major political unrest.
ACLU’s Gelernt said the rights organization was “extremely disappointed, but not shocked” by the Biden administration’s decision to appeal the latest Title 42 decision to the Circuit Court of Appeals from DC.
“We would have thought that the Biden administration, given how much it talks about wanting a humane asylum system, would at least have grappled with the decision,” he said.
Instead, the Biden administration is fighting in court to preserve one of the Trump administration’s most hated border policies.