Three bi-partisan lawmakers joined Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) in asking President Joe Biden to extend a coronavirus emergency order that prevents illegal immigrants from entering the United States in a letter sent Dec. 13.
In the letter signed by Manchin, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), U.S. Rep. Tony Gonzales (R-Texas), and U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), the legislators are requesting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to extend Title 42, which is set to expire on Dec. 21.
“We have a crisis at our southern border. Never before in our nation’s history have we experienced this scope and scale of illegal border crossings, and we remain concerned that your administration has not provided sufficient support or resources to the men and women of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) who are tasked with maintaining border security,” the legislators wrote.
“Termination of the CDC’s Title 42 order at this time will result in a complete loss of operational control over the southern border, a profoundly negative impact on border communities, and significant suffering and fatalities among the migrants unlawfully entering the United States,” the letter said.
Created in 1944, Title 42 was designed to prevent the introduction of contagious diseases in the United States.
The CDC invoked Title 42 in March 2020 at the onset of the COVID pandemic. The action allowed the United States to block illegal immigrants from entering the country if they were arriving from countries with high CCP virus infection rates.
The Dec. 21 termination date was determined by Judge Emmet Sullivan of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, who voided Title 42 on Nov. 15. Sullivan was appointed by former President Bill Clinton.
In his report, Sullivan said the CDC did not properly explain the reasons for approving the policy instead of using what he termed as less drastic ways to address the virus.
The CDC also “failed to consider the harm to migrants subject to expulsion,” Sullivan wrote, referencing reports claiming that migrants could be persecuted in Mexico and other countries after their expulsion from the United States.
On Nov. 16, Sullivan gave federal immigration officials five weeks to end Title 42.
The Department of Justice has appealed the ruling.
Biden maintained the policy for his first year in office. In recent months, he has attempted to rescind it, arguing that the order is no longer needed since the pandemic has eased.
For the 12 months ending Sept. 30, 2022, U.S. Customs and Border Protection stopped migrants more than 2,766,582 times, compared with 1.72 million times in fiscal year 2021, which was the previous high.
Once Title 42 is lifted, the number of migrants that Border Patrol agents must process will “likely be double or greater,” according to a U.S. Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General report released in September.
“While admittedly imperfect, termination of the CDC’s Title 42 order at this time will result in a complete loss of operational control over the southern border, a profoundly negative impact on border communities, and significant suffering and fatalities among the migrants unlawfully entering the United States,” the lawmakers’ letter read.
Already in fiscal year 2023, Border Patrol agents have recorded more than 500,000 illegal immigrant encounters. This translates to around 7,000 per day. More than 162,000 have been removed from the United States under Title 42.
Legislative action is probably the only solution, and those negotiations will take time, the four lawmakers said.
“We are committed to enacting bipartisan legislation that will allow DHS to effectively implement policies and programs that have been revealed as critical to maintaining operational control over the southern border, and do not involve paroling large numbers of migrants into the United States to undergo months- or years-long processes,” they wrote in the letter.
A Dec. 16 government shutdown looms if legislators do not approve the Fiscal Year 2023 Government Budget.
The $1.7 trillion budget bill includes adding 250 Border Patrol agents and more funds for border processing coordinators, according to Cuellar, who is vice chairman of the House Appropriations Homeland Security Committee.
The bill also contains $23 million for mental health care for agents, new border monitoring technology, and pay increases for agents, he said.
“All of us, including Homeland are estimating that the number of people coming across is going to increase. The criminal organizations are certainly promoting this as this is a time to cross if Title 42 goes away,” Cuellar said. “I prefer to keep Title 42.”