For more than a year, the Biden administration kept in place on the US southern border a Trump-era policy known as Title 42, which allowed the US to quickly deport migrants. to their country of origin or the Mexican border towns.
On April 1, the administration announced that the policy would end on May 23, giving U.S. officials time to prepare for what they expect to be an increase in migrant arrivals at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Some Democrats celebrated the end of Title 42, but Republicans want to keep the policy in place.
Here’s what you need to know.
What is Title 42?
Title 42 comes from a 1944 public health law aimed at preventing the spread of communicable diseases. It was implemented in March 2020 by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC order empowered border control agencies to deport migrants crossing into the United States, including those hoping to seek asylum, which is their right under US law and international treaties.
How did evictions work?
Once Title 42 was implemented at the U.S.-Mexico border, immigrants encountered by Border Patrol agents were returned to Mexico within hours or returned to their home countries within days – without any formalities. immigration.
Theresa Cardinal Brown, director of immigration and cross-border policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center, said under the policy, that meant “no legal consequences” for migrants trying to cross between ports of entry.
Brown said without Title 42, “There would be a consequence that would make it harder for them to come back legally under immigration law. So using Title 42 there was no consequence, and so what we saw was many immigrants, especially Mexicans, who had been deported to Mexico, just trying again,” ultimately fueling a significant increase in repeat border crossings.
What is the latest dating data from the southern border?
According to US Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) data, Title 42 has been used in most of the estimated 2 million deportations of migrants from Brazil, Central America, Haiti, Mexico and Colombia since March 2020. Other asylum seekers from South America were also quickly blocked at ports of entry under the policy.
In February, US border officials recorded 164,973 encounters with migrants. Among them, 91,513 were expelled. The others could have been detained, allowed to seek asylum, released on parole or other possibilities.
In February 2021, CBP recorded 101,099 encounters with migrants, and in February 2020, just before the headline 42, encounters were 36,687. In 2019, the last year before the pandemic, February encounters were 76 545.
Brown said the rate of repeat crossing attempts is estimated to be 30% higher in the Title 42 era.
“Before that, recidivism rates were relatively low, under 10%,” she said.
What about those who weren’t expelled?
Migrants who have come to the United States on asylum claims — mostly unaccompanied children and migrant families with children — have been given notice to appear in immigration court. With the current immigration court backlog of 1.7 million cases, the asylum process can take years.
What could happen at the border after May 23?
Luis Miranda, a CBP spokesman, told VOA that officials “will simply revert to processing any encounter across the border as we have always done under Title 8, which is the immigration authority that has always been in place throughout the history of US Customs and Border Protection.”
Miranda said the US government expects an increase in arrivals at the southern border, but added that those unable to establish a legal basis to remain in the United States will be deported.
“We have planned for this. … And to deal with any encounter efficiently, humanely. But ultimately, if someone tries to enter without legal permission and does not have the legal basis to stay, they will be placed in a procedure of estrangement. ,” he said.
How does the law treat migrants?
Those who arrive at the border without papers or attempt to enter between ports of entry may be deported without their case being decided by an immigration court.
However, if a migrant wants to apply for asylum, he is interviewed by an asylum officer before being sent back or deported.
Federal law allows people from other countries to seek asylum in the United States if they fear persecution at home. They must be present in the United States and demonstrate that they fear persecution on one of five grounds: race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social class (the broadest of the five categories; it may include grounds such as sexuality or caste).
If a migrant passes what is called a credible fear test by the asylum officer, their case is referred to immigration court, where the migrant can apply for asylum as a defense to the expulsion. If they do not pass the fear check or are refused by the immigration court, the applicant will be deported. If they try to return without documents, the penalties can be greater, such as being prosecuted under criminal law and being denied the ability to apply for a legal immigration visa in the future.
Will Title 42 return?
On April 3, the Republican-led states of Missouri, Louisiana and Arizona filed a lawsuit arguing that the administration failed to properly justify its decision to end Title 42.
And, Brown said, it’s “very possible” that a judge could “order the administration to prosecute Title 42 for a period of time while this litigation unfolds.”
Meanwhile, Republicans have blocked a Democratic attempt to open a debate in the Senate on a $10 billion COVID-19 compromise. They are demanding a vote targeting the Biden administration’s decision to end Title 42.
VOA’s Jorge Agobian contributed to this report.