• Danielle Uehara

The End of Title 42: Opening Doors to Immigrants


Title 42 was implemented by U.S. Border Patrol agents shortly after March 20, 2020. (U.S. Customs and Border Protections/Flickr)


After much conflict and debate in court, President Biden announced on April 1 that Title 42 ― a policy that has both quickened and increased deportation throughout the COVID-19 pandemic ― will end on May 23. Title 42 was initiated during the term of former President Trump. Often regarded as one of Trump’s most consequential immigration restrictions, Title 42 has been an item that up till recently, President Joe Biden has refrained from touching.


What is Title 42?


Reinforced and implemented on March 20, 2020, Title 42 enables the Director of the CDC to “prohibit… the introduction of communicable diseases” by preventing individuals from entering the United States. Before Title 42 was implemented by the Trump administration, unaccompanied minors who entered the United States were sent to facilities overseen by the Department of Health and Human Services for shelter and schooling. Many children were placed with friends or family until their court day. However, under Title 42, children were quarantined in hotels, sometimes for weeks, then sent them back to their homes. Though unaccompanied minors were often made an exception to expulsion, others were expelled at entry. Those who were already in the country were to be quarantined, then sent back to their homes. Title 42 proved to be detrimental for many asylum-seekers, who were also expelled from entering the U.S.


Title 42 was implemented during the presidency of former President Trump to slow the spread of COVID-19, allowing federal health officials unique powers during the pandemic. Health officials were able to lawfully stop the flow of immigrants from countries with high numbers of confirmed COVID cases. Although many agreed that implementing Title 42 during the pandemic was a wise decision, many also wondered if Trump used the code to enforce his own anti-immigration policies.


Controversy against Title 42


Controversy arose regarding how Title 42 was to be implemented. Trump claimed that his administration derived the order from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). However, former health officials alleged they were forced to implement Title 42 to avoid losing their jobs. According to international public health expert Dr. Anthony So, “The decision to halt asylum processes ‘to protect the public health’ is not based on evidence or science.” Dr. Anthony So suggested that it was never necessary for the U.S. to implement Title 42. The policy is believed to have been implemented by former Vice President Pence, though Pence’s spokeswoman Katie Miller denied these claims.


Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Immigrants Rights Project stated, “That is what the Trump administration has been trying to do for four years and they finally saw a window.” According to Lee Gelernt, the Trump administration used the pandemic to close the borders, something that Trump had been attempting to do during the span of his presidency.


The Exemption of Title 42


After being in effect for a little over two years, Title 42 has continued under President Biden, though his administration hasn’t been as strict as the Trump administration. This less-strict stance began with fully exempting unaccompanied minors from exemption. Title 42 is projected to fully end on May 23. Currently, unaccompanied children can now be given vaccines and take medical tests. However, adults and families with young children can continue to be turned away for the next few weeks until Title 42 is formally lifted.


According to the CDC, “After considering current public health conditions and an increased availability of tools to fight COVID-19 (such as highly effective vaccines and therapeutics), the CDC director has determined that an order suspending the right to introduce migrants into the United States is no longer necessary.” Many have felt that it’s time to lift mandates and rules that were created during the pandemic to protect Americans. Recent developments have been made in opening borders because of the lifting of some COVID restrictions and many Democrats, medical experts, and immigrant advocates have debated the topic, resulting in the government revising their decision to keep borders closed.


Many have been very vocal about their opinion of Title 42. According to Eleanor Acer, senior director for refugee protection at Human Rights First, “The Biden administration and the CDC have rightly decided to terminate this Trump policy ― a policy we have spent two years opposing due to the horrific human rights abuses it inflicts on people seeking asylum, and we urge a swift end to this humanitarian travesty.” However, the conservative Democrat Joe Manchin, of West Virginia said, “Title 42 has been an essential tool in combating the spread of COVID-19 and controlling the influx of migrants at our southern border. We are already facing an unprecedented increase in migrants this year.”


As for why the U.S. is waiting until May 23 to rescind Title 42, lawmakers believe it gives time for people to prepare and see the effects of the BA.2 variant on COVID numbers.


What to Expect


Title 42 will be slowly phased out so all of its effects will end on May 23. With migrant policies loosening, there has been much concern since the government has been struggling to keep up. Many wonder if the facilities will be able to handle the surge of people. Currently, 7,000 people a day are entering the U.S., but experts anticipate that 18,000 people will be entering once Title 42 is phased out. The government is currently preparing for this surge by hiring more agents and immigrant judges to hear asylum claims. People who seek protection in the U.S. that have been in fear that they will suffer persecution should they remain in their home country due to race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion are eligible for asylum, but must be approved within one year of arriving in order to stay in the U.S.


With U.S. midterm elections approaching, it is expected that many candidates will be sharing where they stand on this matter in campaign ads. During the 2022 midterm elections, all 435 members of the House will be elected, 34 Senate seats (about one-third of the Senate) will be elected, and 36 states will be electing governors. These groups have the power to control President Biden’s agenda, they will determine the outcome of his policy goals.