Title 42 has ended. Here’s what made it happen and how US immigration policy is changing
WASHINGTON (AP) – The US is introducing new restrictions on its southern border to prevent migrants from entering the country illegally and instead encourage them to apply for asylum online under a new process.
The changes come as the end of the coronavirus asylum restrictions that have allowed the US to quickly turn back migrants at the US-Mexico border for the past three years. These restrictions are known as Title 42 because the authority derives from Title 42 of a 1944 Public Health Act, which provides for curbing migration in the name of protecting public health.
Disinformation and confusion arose during the transition. A look at the new rules (and the old ones):
What is Title 42 and what did it do?
Title 42 is the name of an emergency health agency. It was a holdover from President Donald Trump’s administration and began in March 2020. The agency allowed US officials to turn away migrants arriving at the US-Mexico border on grounds of preventing the spread of COVID-19 .
Previously, migrants could cross illegally, apply for asylum, and enter the United States. They were then screened and often released to await their immigration cases.
Under Title 42, migrants were turned back across the border and denied the right to seek asylum. US officials have turned migrants away more than 2.8 million times. Families and children traveling alone were exempt.
But there were no real consequences if someone crossed the border illegally. This allowed migrants to keep trying to cross the border hoping to get to the US
President Joe Biden initially retained Title 42 after taking office and then attempted to end its use in 2022. Republicans filed a lawsuit, arguing the restrictions were necessary for border security. The courts had kept the rules. But the Biden administration announced in January that it would end national COVID-19 emergencies, and so the border restrictions are now lifted.
Biden said the new changes are necessary, in part because Congress hasn’t passed immigration reform in decades.
So what happens next?
The Title 42 restrictions were lifted Thursday at 11:59 p.m. EDT.
The Biden administration has introduced a series of new policies to combat illegal border crossings. The government says it’s trying to discourage people from paying for smuggling deals to embark on a dangerous and often deadly journey.
Now there will be severe consequences. Migrants caught crossing the country illegally are barred from returning for five years and face criminal prosecution if they do.
NEW ASYLUM RULES
Under US and international law, anyone coming to the US can apply for asylum. People from all over the world travel to the US-Mexico border to seek asylum. They are examined to determine whether they have a credible fear of persecution in their home country. Their case then goes to the immigration court system to decide if they can remain in the US, but that process can take years. They are usually released to the US to await their case there.
The Biden administration is now turning away any asylum seeker who has not first sought protection in a country through which they have traveled or submitted their initial application online. This is a version of Trump administration policy that has been overturned by the courts. Pressure groups filed lawsuits to block the new rule minutes before it went into effect.
The lawsuit, filed by the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies and other groups in federal court in San Francisco, alleges that the Biden administration “doubled down” on Trump-proposed policies that the same court rejected. The Biden administration has said its new rule is significantly different.
Who has access?
The US has announced it will accept up to 30,000 people per month from Venezuela, Haiti, Nicaragua and Cuba, provided they arrive by plane, have a sponsor and apply online first. The government will also allow up to 100,000 people from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras who have family members here to enter the United States if they also apply online. Otherwise, border officials will deport people, including 30,000 people a month from Venezuela, Haiti, Nicaragua and Cuba, who will be sent back across the border to Mexico.
Other migrants can also be admitted if they submit their application through the CBP One app. Currently 740 people per day are allowed to use the app, the number is to be increased to 1,000 per day.
what about families
Curfews will be imposed on families crossing the border illegally and the head of household will be required to wear an ankle-monitoring bracelet. Immigration officials will attempt to determine within 30 days whether a family can remain in the United States or be deported. Normally the process would take years.
The Biden administration considered detaining families until they passed initial asylum tests, but instead opted for curfews, which apply from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. and will begin soon in Baltimore; Chicago; Newark, NJ; and Washington, DC, according to a US official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the information was not intended for publication. Families who do not show up for their screening interviews are apprehended and deported by immigration authorities.
Border Patrol Stations are designed to house migrants temporarily and do not have the capacity to accommodate the large numbers of people arriving. Some stations are already too full. As a result, agents began releasing migrants to the United States with instructions to report to an immigration officer within 60 days or face deportation.
Agents were told to begin releases in any area where detention facilities were at 125% occupancy or where the average detention time exceeded 60 hours. They were also told to begin release if 7,000 migrants were detained across the border in one day.
That has already happened, around 10,000 people were arrested on Tuesday. This could create problems for Biden administration officials trying to crack down on those entering the country.
Florida filed a lawsuit alleging the releases violated a previous court ruling. Late Thursday, a federal judge approved the government’s layoff plan, at least temporarily halting it. Customs and Border Protection said in a statement it would comply with the court order, but called it a “damaging decision that will lead to unsafe overcrowding…and undermine our ability to efficiently process and deport migrants.”
US officials plan to open 100 regional migration centers across the western hemisphere, where people in other countries, including Canada and Spain, can seek shelter.
There will be hubs in Colombia and Guatemala, but it’s not clear where others will be located or when they will become operational.
Associated Press writers Rebecca Santana in Washington and Elliot Spagat in San Diego contributed to this report.
Suggest a correction