He has already rolled back several policies enacted by former President Donald Trump. One policy that was put in place at the start of the pandemic is still in effect and it’s leading to the expulsion of thousands of parents and children caught at the border.
Title 42, an order handed down by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in early 2020, changed immigration policy at the border during the pandemic.
The order, renewed last October, authorizes the expulsion of those crossing the border illegally as a protective measure against disease.
Fernando Garcia, founder and executive director of the immigrant advocacy group Border Network for Human Rights, said the measure is being used for to deny migrants a chance to make their case.
“Title 42 gives the authority to, in this case, to Border Patrol, to detain, arrest, and expel people right away at the border, as they crossed the border,” said Garcia. “What we’re seeing right now is not even a massive deportation… is a massive expulsion of people with no due process.”
The ripple effect is being felt by government officials in Mexico as well.
Enrique Valenzuela, general coordinator of a local government group overseeing migration in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, has seen the policy create a boomerang effect.
“We understand this policy, people that come in through Mexico are being sent back through this border,” stated Valenzuela.
He said that Title 42 is about health and safety at an unpredictable time.
“And just now we were expecting to have some sort of a third wave. So this is something that I think we must understand at this point,” said Valenzuela.
Garcia countered, “This is not protecting the people they’re supposed to be protecting, in this case, more than anything, children, families, asylum-seekers, so they use just rapidly expelled from the country and without any chance to present their cases.”
Marisa Limón-Garza is deputy director of the Catholic charity Hope Border Institute in El Paso. For her, this has been about the politics of two American administrations
“This was the part of the design of Stephen Miller and the Trump administration and one other tool at their disposal to really build this impermeable wall. And they have successfully achieved that. And now the Biden administration is continuing it,” said Limón-Garza.
Advocates voice continued frustration that Title 42 endures in the Biden Administration.
“Title 42 is still in place because we are still in the midst of fighting a global pandemic. So I don’t have any predictions of when that will change,” said White House press secretary Jen Psaki.
“For us, it’s really encouraging the Biden administration, to be bold, to have courage to take the opportunity to listen to borderline communities like ours, and to make good on the promises, that they, that President Biden ran on,” said Limón-Garza.
The Biden administration did abolish the remain in Mexico program which required migrants to wait on the southern side of the border for immigration hearings in the U.S.
“There are humanitarian options that we’ve seen that help during a pandemic, still make sure that people have the opportunity to be in the United States, we see that with the wind down of the Remain in Mexico program, MPP,” stated Limón-Garza.
Migrants continue going into the United States who will have hearings when U.S. immigration courts reopen and that foretells what may happen when and if Title 42 ends.
“But there are people here waiting to cross into the U.S. once Title 42 is lifted. And well, I wouldn’t dare anticipate the scenario in Central America or South America, or even in Mexico when that happens,” said Valenzuela.