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Biden admin will officially end Covid restriction at border on May 23

The controversial public health rule known as Title 42 has blocked more than 1.7 million attempts to cross the border.
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Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas formally announced on Friday that families and single adult asylum seekers who had been turned away at the U.S.-Mexico border since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic will have their chance to enter the U.S. and make an asylum claim starting May 23.

NBC News reported on Wednesday that sources familiar with the planning said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had notified DHS that it would terminate the controversial public health rule known as Title 42 that has blocked more than 1.7 million attempts to cross the border.

There are currently thousands of migrants living in poor conditions and camps in northern Mexico after being turned back from crossing under Title 42. DHS officials say they are bracing for a surge of more than 170,000 migrants after May 23 — but are also ramping up Covid vaccinations at the border and will place some unvaccinated immigrants in detention facilities.

In a statement released Friday, Mayorkas reiterated that lifting Title 42 did not mean all migrants who cross will be allowed to stay. “Let me be clear: those unable to establish a legal basis to remain in the United States will be removed,” he said.

The Biden administration has come under pressure from both sides of the immigration debate for its handling of Title 42. Republican have criticized and even sued the administration for not enforcing it more fully, specifically against unaccompanied children.

Immigration advocates, meanwhile, sued the Biden administration to lift Title 42, arguing it was being used as an immigration enforcement tool rather than a legitimate public health measure.

Title 42 was imposed under President Donald Trump in March 2020.

Stephen Miller, a former senior adviser to Trump known for his anti-immigration policies, said on Twitter that the lifting of Title 42 “will mean armageddon on the border. This is how nations end.”

In fact, rolling back Title 42 will mean a return to status quo immigration policies in place prior to March 2020. 

Sergio Gonzales, executive director of the Immigration Hub, a collective of pro-immigration groups, said in a statement, “We applaud the decision of the CDC — a determination that will finally put an end to a policy that held no public health merit and was discriminately used to expel families, including children.”

DHS and State Department officials told reporters on Friday they will put in place a program at the border to encourage immigrants to get vaccinated. One official said DHS is already offering 2,000 Covid vaccinations at 11 locations along the southern border daily, with plans to increase to 6,000 vaccinations at 27 locations before May 23. Those who refuse to be vaccinated and cannot prove they were previously vaccinated will be sent to Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention, if they are single adults, or released with “more stringent conditions,” if they are families.

Mayorkas also plans to surge more than 600 additional men and women to the border for what is expected to be a new surge of migration when Title 42 is lifted. Their mission, according to the officials, is to make sure those who enter the country are placed on “alternatives to detention,” which usually includes ankle monitors or a check-in system, until their day in immigration court.

Immigration courts, which now have a backlog of over 1.6 million cases, determine whether an immigrant should be deported or given protections to stay in the U.S. Another Biden administration plan set to take effect at the end of May will allow some migrants to be given those protections by asylum officers and bypass the court system all together, as part of an effort to speed up the asylum process.