Last week, the Biden administration announced that it would extend the Title 42 public health order. Title 42 allows immigration authorities to quickly remove illegal aliens from the country to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in processing facilities and within American communities. The extension reveals that the administration views the order as effective and should rightfully keep it in place as apprehension totals remain at historic levels and COVID-19 variants continue to proliferate.
Despite vehemently opposing nearly every single immigration move made by the Trump administration, the Biden administration has surprisingly kept Title 42 intact since Inauguration Day in January. But this isn’t too surprising. Title 42 has remained an extremely effective tool in mitigating COVID-19 at the southern border and in the interior of the country.
Since October (the beginning of Fiscal Year 2021), at least 750,000 illegal aliens have been swiftly removed from the country under this order. Of the nearly 189,000 illegal aliens apprehended in June, authorities turned away more than half from the country due to Title 42.
Without it in place, these individuals—whose vaccination and health statuses often remain unknown—would not only cross our borders but then be flown or bused throughout every corner of the country due to the Biden administration’s ‘catch and release’ policies.
Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky, a Biden pick, has even admitted the effectiveness of the order stating that “severe overcrowding and a high risk of COVID-19 transmission" would occur among migrants in U.S. custody and immigration authorities without Title 42 in place.
Aside from serving as an effective public health tool, Title 42 has also helped enhance national security—especially at the southern border.
Our immigration authorities are severely understaffed. They are dealing with six consecutive months of increased illegal immigration with no end in sight. Early estimates predict that they apprehended 210,000 illegal aliens in July alone—a number not seen in more than 20 years. Unaccompanied minor children represented 19,000 of this total—an all-time high for a month—that require more resources and attention than any other demographic.
An understaffed and overwhelmed border jeopardizes national security. Drugs and criminal illegal aliens remain serious threats and, in many cases, have increased under the Biden administration. If immigration authorities contract COVID-19 and leave the front lines, the border will become even more porous and incentivize more drugs and criminal illegal aliens to enter the country.
While Title 42 is not a panacea, it helps better protect the public health of immigration authorities at the southern border. With these individuals better protected, our national security is better protected.
Undoubtedly, the Title 42 extension is a step in the right direction but more remains to be done to help discourage mass migration amid a global pandemic.
First, the Biden administration should look to apply the order to all illegal aliens entering the country—not just select groups of single adults. Currently, the order is not applied to large portions of family units and unaccompanied minors despite them likely carrying similar health risks as single adults.
Next, the Biden administration must stop playing politics and reimpose the Trump-era border policies that helped discourage illegal immigration. These initiatives include the “Remain in Mexico” policy, the Asylum Cooperation Agreements with the Northern Triangle countries, and restarting construction of the southern border wall. The administration can implement these items immediately via an executive order and do not require working with a gridlocked Congress.
The announcement of the Title 42 extension this week was necessary and comes at a critical time. The Biden administration finally acknowledged that Title 42—first implemented by the Trump administration in March 2020—is an effective tool to safeguard public health and national security. But the job is nowhere near complete. The administration must fully enforce Title 42 and reinstate other Trump-era border and immigration initiatives until our own country and the rest of the world obtains a better control of COVID-19, its variants, and a regional migration strategy.
Matthew Tragesser is press secretary at the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) in Washington D.C.