US President Joe Biden has doubled down on Republican predecessor Donald Trump’s controversial border policy and has already expelled more migrants under Title 42 than Trump did, according to a report.
Biden’s continued practice of expelling migrants at the border has left certain Democratic lawmakers confused and advocates frustrated, The Hill reported on Friday.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has launched legal efforts to overturn Title 42, a policy that allows US border officials to expel migrants for public health reasons, preventing them from seeking asylum. The lawsuit will now proceed in federal court.
The Trump administration introduced the controversial policy following the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic but the Biden administration has used it widely. Biden has expelled more migrants under the policy in a shorter amount of time than Trump did in about a year.
The Biden administration has expelled nearly 514,000 people under Title 42 since February. Under Trump, nearly 460,000 were expelled from March 2020 through January 2021.
The Biden administration further doubled down on Trump’s policy on Monday night when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) introduced a new Title 42 extension, taking a new level of ownership over the controversial policy.
“It’s no longer a Trump policy because he’s no longer in the White House, so it is a Biden policy, and we should fix it,” Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D-N.Y.), who has previously called on the Biden administration to abandon Title 42, told The Hill.
“I think because COVID-19 is still very much present in the US and this new variant is spreading so quickly that there's pressure for the government to take these very strict measures that are not necessarily reflective of our values as a party or reflective of the values of the administration. I think it’s a mistake,” Espaillat added.
In February, the Biden administration asked the ACLU to pause its litigation against Title 42 as Biden vowed to reverse several Trump immigration actions and transition to a more humane approach at the border. But Biden has failed to deliver on its promises.
ACLU lawyer Lee Gelernt said the Biden administration repeatedly sought more time -- leaving the plaintiffs unsure Biden would take any actions to unwind the policy after seven months in the White House.
“We’ve been negotiating with them since the end of February and it’s now clear there is no immediate end to Title 42 in sight,” he told the Washington-based newspaper. “They backed us into a corner and we saw no alternative but to resume the litigation.”
Biden officials now have to defend a policy drafted and implemented by the Trump administration as it also blames Trump for the current challenges at the border.
More than 60 Democratic lawmakers warned the Biden administration to avoid such a position in a letter in February saying the administration “need not and should not leave this to the courts.”
Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.), who led the letter, said the Biden administration should not be defending the Trump policy.
“There is no reason why the administration needs to leave this issue to the courts. It can single-handedly repeal the Title 42 order and help craft a more humane asylum system that is consistent with our nation's values and our obligations under international law,” Wilson said.
“We can and must adjust policies for international travel to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and allow for asylum seekers with legitimate claims to reach the United States. I am confident that our immigration system can handle this challenge and is capable of chewing gum and walking at the same time,” the lawmaker added.
Jorge Loweree, a policy director at the American Immigration Council, said that Biden is just a few months away from having employed Title 42 longer than Trump did.
“The reality is that the Biden administration likely sees the possibility of Title 42 being resolved in federal court as a benefit. If a federal judge rules against the administration, they will be able to finally do the right thing but deflect some of the political blowback of restarting asylum at the southern border,” he said.
“So this will soon become a Biden-era policy, and the administration will own Title 42 forever unless things change very soon,” he stated.
David Bier, an immigration research fellow with the libertarian Cato Institute, said the new CDC order “slams the door shut on any administration changes.”
Critics have denounced the Biden administration for unraveling strict border protections put in place by Trump, including measures that kept migrants in Mexico while they waited for their cases to be processed.