On April 1, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced the pending termination of Title 42, the order that authorizes the rapid expulsion of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border due to the threat of COVID-19.
The decision caused the COVID-19 relief deal to be blocked in the Senate and a bipartisan group of Senators to call for a delay in its ending. The CDC and Biden administration made this decision despite polls showing more than half of Americans agree with maintaining immigration restrictions at the border.
Opposition was expected. Much of the public is uninformed or unaware about the purpose, scope and effects of Title 42. Many have not visited the border nor met with an asylum seeker. Misinformation and political posturing also play a role, especially as the U.S. approaches the midterm elections.
But let me prescribe a dose of calm to those who are worried about the termination of Title 42. The catastrophe will not come, and the country will handle it as usual. Here are seven reasons why I am not worried about the termination of this policy.
First, Title 42 always was a temporary policy. It is important to remember that Title 42 is a temporary measure implemented to prevent the spread of COVID and not a permanent policy to block migrants’ human right to seek asylum —at least that has been the U.S. government’s narrative to legally sustain it.
Why? Because it is known that its extension and its current implementation as well violates U.S. obligations under the 1951 Refugee Convention to such extent that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has expressed his opposition to it. Therefore, the extension of the Title 42 already is and would constitute the extension of a human rights violation, especially when COVID cases have been reduced dramatically.
Michelle Heisler of the University of Michigan Center for Clinical Management Research concludes that Title 42 is “scientifically baseless and politically motivated.” Furthermore, it is an egregious double standard to ask the government to restrict migrants their right to seek asylum, but not to restrict Americans in any way with the goal of preventing viral spread.
Third, Title 42 increased the number of border crossers. It may be counterintuitive to believe that a policy that seeks to deter the number of border crossers may actually increase it, but that is what Title 42 did.
“It may be counterintuitive to believe that a policy that seeks to deter the number of border crossers may actually increase it, but that is what Title 42 did.”
Precisely because of the Title 42 expulsions, the number of arrests at the U.S.-Mexico border increased to an all-time high in 2021 because there was no penalty for repeat crossers. More than 30% of the migrants arrested at the border in February and March 2022 tried to cross the border previously in the last year.
Fourth, any sudden “increase” is due to pent up demand. Politicians and the media have tried to suggest that the elimination of Title 42 will lead to an increase in the number of migrants on the border between Mexico and the United States. In truth, any immediate increase after Title 42 is eliminated will be because two years’ worth of asylum seekers have been waiting for this policy change. It will appear like a flood of increased immigration. But all Title 42 accomplished was to delay the receipt of asylum seekers.
Fifth, the government has a plan. The argument of some policymakers for the extension of Title 42 is that the Department of Homeland Security is not ready, but this is simply not true. The DHS issued a new set of rules to expedite the processing of asylum seekers that will be enacted by the end of May 2022, when Title 42 will be stopped. The Biden administration created the Southwest Border Coordination Center to deal with any logistical and operational challenges at the border.
Sixth, the U.S. has the capacity and the resources to welcome; the will is what’s lacking. For the past month, thousands of Ukrainians and Russians have arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border, but the U.S. media does not consider them as part of the potential “surge.” The states suing the Biden administration and the same politicians calling for the end of Title 42 have not sued the Biden administration for announcing the 100,000 grants of humanitarian parole to Ukrainians. Nor have I heard of any issues with capacity or the lack of resources to welcome them.
Why do we call it a humanitarian emergency when Ukrainians and Russians seek asylum at the border but when brown and Black people show up, we call it a “surge,” a “caravan,” or a “wave”? For some, the color of your skin determines if you are an illegal causing a surge or a refugee seeking welcome.
“For some, the color of your skin determines if you are an illegal causing a surge or a refugee seeking welcome.”
Seventh, the end of Title 42 will help migrants and hurt criminal organizations.
Every day I hear people complaining that the constant flow of migration benefits cartels. But those same people talk very little about the lucrative opportunity Title 42 presents to the cartels. The elimination of Title 42 will be a blow to the cartels in northern Mexico, who have profited from exploiting stranded and vulnerable migrants.
The elimination of Title 42 will significantly reduce the number of people raped, kidnapped, assaulted and exploited on our southern border, mostly women and children. Human Rights First reported that at least 9,886 migrants blocked in or expelled to Mexico through Title 42 have been victims of kidnapping, torture, rape and other violent attacks.
The number of families raped, kidnapped, assaulted and exploited near our southern border alone should be enough motivation for Christians to advocate for the end of Title 42. Our sense of comfort and even arrogance as American citizens cannot be above the pain of others. More so for those of us who profess to follow Jesus Christ, who cared more for others than for himself.
Elket Rodríguez is a Cooperative Baptist Fellowship field personnel serving at the U.S.-Mexico border. He works in collaboration with Fellowship Southwest, which first published this article.