The Biden administration is expected to end the use of Title 42 to expel asylum-seekers at the U.S.-Mexico border by May 23, more than two years after the controversial program was first implemented.
The decision to end Title 42 has not yet been formally announced, but comes as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) faces the prospect of renewing the order this week, or allowing it to lapse. According to reporting by the Wall Street Journal, the CDC’s order ending the program is pending at the White House’s Office for Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), and could become final as soon as today, March 30. The anticipated end of Title 42 comes after the CDC extended its asylum-blocking powers in late January by two months, in the midst of a surge of Omicron subvariant infections nationwide.
On March 20, 2020 the Trump administration used the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to invoke a controversial and obscure public health law to turn back or “expel” migrants and asylum seekers back to Mexico or their home country without a hearing or the opportunity to request asylum.
Frequently referred to simply as Title 42, section 265 of Title 42 was used by the previous administration to close the southern border. In the two years since its invocation, nearly 1.5 million people have been expelled from the U.S.-Mexico border, including at least 200,000 parents and children, and nearly 16,000 unaccompanied minor children. The American Immigration Council noted as far back as October 2021 that “over 130,000 families and children have been expelled since the restrictions went into place.”
The policy has been repeatedly criticized for a number of reasons, chief among them being that it makes it nearly impossible for people seeking asylum to do so. Under Title 42, people seeking refuge in the United States can be immediately turned back and removed from the country without the opportunity to have their claims for asylum heard first. Many of the people expelled to Mexico are not Mexican citizens, and are thus living in unfamiliar cities, often in migrant shelters or encampments. Human Rights First reported that during the Biden administration alone, nearly 10,000 people have been kidnapped, assaulted, raped, or tortured since being expelled to Mexico under Title 42.
“Migrants have been cruelly expelled from our country under the guise of Title 42,” said Representative Juan Vargas, a California Democrat who represents the district along the U.S.-Mexico border. “Title 42 was never about public health and safety—it was implemented to deny due process to people seeking refuge and protection.”
The Biden administration has kept the policy in place until now, arguing that expulsions are necessary to prevent the introduction of Covid-19 into the United States, despite opposition by public health experts, the federal courts, and CDC scientists themselves.
Title 42 has been subject to ongoing litigation, with two federal appeals courts issuing divergent rulings on the policy’s legality as recently as March 5, 2022.