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US defends deportation of migrants as Canada-Mexico border restrictions ease

Migrants deported from the United States and returned to Mexico under Title 42 walk to Mexico at the Paso del Norte International Border Bridge, in this photo taken in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico on October 1, 2021.

José Luis Gonzalez | Reuters

The Biden administration on Wednesday defended its use of a Trump-era health law to deport undocumented migrants at the country’s borders, even as it lifts restrictions for fully vaccinated foreign nationals traveling from Canada or Mexico to the United States

The law, known as Title 42, “remains in effect, said White House press secretary Jen Psaki when asked if fully vaccinated migrants seeking asylum could enter states. -United

She told reporters on Wednesday that the relaxed travel restrictions would only allow foreign nationals who are fully vaccinated and have “proper documentation” to enter the United States.

The administration of then-President Donald Trump introduced Title 42 in March 2020 due to concerns over the Covid pandemic. More than one million migrants have been deported under Title 42 since it came into effect in March 2020, according to data from US Customs and Border Protection.

Senior administration officials said on Tuesday that the United States was preparing to reopen its land borders with Canada and Mexico to fully vaccinated foreign nationals in early November, ending a policy that has restricted non-essential travel since its implementation at the start of the pandemic.

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In practice, Title 42 means that anyone caught crossing the border illegally, i.e. without a visa to enter or without passing through a formal border post, can be expelled immediately without being offered the opportunity to seek asylum in the United States. United.

In the absence of Title 42, US law requires that all migrants crossing the border, with or without papers, have the opportunity to seek asylum.

In August, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the policy would remain in effect until there is no longer a danger of people who are not U.S. citizens bringing Covid-19 to the country when ‘they cross the border. Unaccompanied minors are exempt from the health law.

“The Title 42 restrictions are really meant to protect the migrants themselves, the DHS workforce and local communities,” a senior administration official told reporters on Tuesday. “There is at the moment a solid public health basis to continue with the Title 42 restrictions.”

An official also noted that health policy remains necessary as social distancing is difficult to enforce in border patrol facilities where migrants are typically held.

Confusion over politics

Immigration lawyers and some Democrats have pointed to the inconsistency around vaccination status in the border policies of the Biden administration.

John Bruning, an attorney with The Advocates for Human Rights’ refugee and immigrant program, criticized the White House and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

“How does that reconcile with Mayorkas doubling down on Title 42 deportations? Migrants are summarily deported whether or not they have been vaccinated,” Bruning said in a Twitter post.

Julian Castro, the former US Secretary of Housing and Urban Development who served under the Obama administration, said in a Twitter post that it was “good news” that the borders were reopened but called for the end of Title 42.

“Now our ports of entry should reopen to allow people to make asylum claims,” ​​Castro said in Wednesday’s post. “Title 42 is a stain on this nation and it should end.”

The decision to retain Title 42 comes as the Biden administration grapples with the largest number of migrants attempting to illegally cross the US-Mexico border in two decades.

Earlier Tuesday, Mayorkas also defended the administration’s use of Title 42, telling Yahoo News it was a “public health authority” and not an “immigration policy”.

“This is not an immigration policy that we would adopt in this administration,” Mayorkas said in an interview with Yahoo. “But we see it as a public health imperative as ordered by the Centers for Disease Control.”

“We are in the midst of a pandemic,” he said. “To anyone who thinks it’s business as usual, I think it would be, frankly, to ignore a pandemic that has claimed the lives of over 700,000 Americans.”

The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, or RAICES, said in a Twitter post on Tuesday that the Biden administration was deporting asylum seekers without due process and “returning families and children towards imminent danger in the name of “public health”. “

RAICES was among the groups that challenged the health policy in a lawsuit last month. A US appeals court recently ruled that the Biden administration can continue to use Title 42 while the trial continues.