Ending Title 42 promises to double down on the damage already done to sovereignty and security at America’s southern border.
YUMA, ARIZONA – DECEMBER 09: A U.S. Border Patrol agent checks passports before taking recently arrived immigrants to a processing center on December 09, 2021 in Yuma, Arizona. Women and children were eventually taken to the nearly full facility but many of the men had to sleep outside until the next day near the border fence. Yuma has seen a surge of migrant crossing in the last week, with many families trying to reach U.S. soil before the court-ordered re-implementation of the Trump-era “Remain in Mexico” policy. The policy requires asylum seekers to stay in Mexico for the duration of their U.S. immigration court process. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
On May 23, our already stressed and broken southern border will almost certainly face an unprecedented migration surge that will further harm Americans and migrants while endangering communities across the country. That’s the day President Joe Biden and his administration unconscionably plan to end enforcement of Title 42 authority and with it the last vestige of border enforcement.
Title 42 authority (42 U.S.C. § 265) allows the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to quickly expel illegal migrants encountered at our southern border due to threats of “communicable diseases.” It’s truthfully one more arrow in the border enforcement quiver, based on a policy dating from the 1940s that allows the federal government to restrict migration in the interest of public health. The pandemic clearly warranted such a measure, which is why the Trump administration’s CDC initially ordered its implementation, and why the Biden administration partially continued its enforcement.
To understand what termination of Title 42 means for America, one must understand that virtually all other enforcement has been forsaken—the Biden administration has, among other things, drastically cut back ICE enforcement in the interior and refused to follow a court order to implement Migrant Protection Protocols—and the result is overwhelming numbers. So bad, in fact, that the Biden administration has been working to conceal the damage, but the numbers don’t lie. In fiscal year 2021, the year Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas took office, DHS encountered more migrants at our southern border—some 2 million apprehensions—than in any other year in their history. And of those, nearly 700,000 were released into the United States, and a distracted Border Patrol was unable to apprehend some 500,000 known “gotaways”—usually the worst actors. Now, as the world geopolitical situation worsens, the numbers are getting even worse, with a likely record-breaking number of encounters in March of this year (reportedly over 215,000). And of this, only roughly half of those were turned away under Title 42, meaning over 100,000 more releases in that month alone.
Now, even DHS predicts that with termination of Title 42, we could reach 18,000 migrants arriving in a single day—more than double the roughly 7,100 we currently apprehend daily, and 18 times more than when the Obama era DHS Secretary said 1,000 encounters per day was a “crisis.” DHS also estimates roughly 25,000 migrants are camped near the border, waiting for Title 42’s demise. Most of all, however, consider that Mayorkas has used Title 42 as the basis for almost all of those refused entry since he took office—despite using it far less than his Trump administration predecessors. The Trump administration used Title 42 to turn away more than 80 percent of illegal migrants, compared to now when only roughly 50 percent are, due to policies exempting unaccompanied minors and most families. So, with Title 42 terminated, virtually all of these illegal migrants would be released into the United States.
Meanwhile, it is a slap in the face to most Americans to end the enforcement of Title 42 authority at our border while Nancy Pelosi continues to enforce “proxy” rules (allowing members to vote for other members), the administration reportedly plans to continue to enforce federal transportation mask mandates, and federal mandates continue for military and CBP personnel to get vaccinated or risk losing their jobs. Though the American people have largely moved on from the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Biden administration is still restricting the freedoms of the American people and now once again is asking Congress for billions more in Covid-19 “relief.”
Congress must step up and do everything in its power to prevent this. And we have the tools to do so in the House, with or without Speaker Pelosi’s consent. As reckless and absurd as this policy change currently is, it was entirely foreseeable. That is why we filed what is known as a “discharge petition” last April to force a vote on Rep. Yvette Herrell’s bill, H.R. 471, the “PAUSE Act,” to require keeping this important policy in place until there is no longer a federal, or state, public health emergency due to Covid-19 and travel is back to normal in Canada and Mexico. It took a year, but now we have 211 House Republican signatures of the 218 needed to discharge the bill—yes, notably, zero Democrats have joined, despite many in their party publicly warning about the impact of their president’s policy.
And they should be concerned.
The consequences for America—and the migrants who seek to come here—will be devastating. Removing Title 42 creates an open invitation to the cartels that already have operational control of our southern border. We’ve already seen enough of the fruits of lax border policies: widespread human trafficking, crime waves, synthetic drug overdoses, countless deaths and ruined lives and livelihoods.
Having traveled to the border numerous times to see the gaps in our unfinished border fence and gaze at the river where hundreds of migrants have drowned after being taken there by smugglers, I’ve spoken regularly with border patrol agents and Texas law enforcement officers whose work this administration has disparaged and all too often actively obstructed. I’ve met with the ranchers who have found dead migrants on their property, and the parents with dead teenage children from fentanyl poisoning.
Ending Title 42 would be far from the only way this administration has compromised our sovereignty and security at the southern border, but it promises to double down on the damage. What will our country be left with for border security, if anything? If this administration’s track record is any guide, it will be more of the same, but worse: more overflowing borders, more empowered cartels, more women and children exploited, more property damaged, more dead migrants and Americans, and a less secure United States. Which really is the ultimate point here—that this is just the refusal of the administration to enforce our border laws.
Chip Roy serves as the U.S. representative for Texas’s 21st congressional district.
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