White House considering whether to keep COVID-19 border controls in place longer

Migrants wait to cross the border at the Gateway International Bridge from Matamoros, Mexico, to Brownsville, Texas, on March 15, 2021. /Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images

By Ronald J. Hansen, Clara Migoya Arizona Republic

Protesters listen to speakers during a rally for asylum seekers outside the ICE offices in Phoenix on March 22, 2022. They are demanding the Biden Administration end Title 42 and stop holding asylum seekers illegally in Mexico.

The White House reportedly is considering keeping in place at least temporarily COVID-related border restrictions that are set to expire next month in a move that would impact the influx of immigrants.

Axios first reported that President Joe Biden’s advisers are weighing whether the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention should extend the use of Title 42, a longstanding public health provision used beginning in March 2020 under then-President Donald Trump to rapidly expel migrants because of coronavirus concerns. 

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday that any delay in ending Title 42 would require congressional approval.

“There are a range of ideas out there in Congress — Democrats, Republicans, others — some who support a delay of Title 42 implementation, some who strongly oppose it,” she said. “And there are a range of other ideas of reforming our immigration system. This would all require congressional action. We’re happy to have that conversation with them.”

The administration announced earlier this month its plans to end Title 42.

It is a far-reaching policy decision that would affect public health, border and immigration enforcement and human services, and comes as the nation continues to dismantle COVID-19 restrictions. The effect in Arizona, where border communities have strained for months to manage rising numbers of immigrants, could be even more pronounced.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki gives press briefing on April 18, 2022.

The government’s use of Title 42 has led to hundreds of thousands of people removed from the U.S., sometimes without even having a chance to seek asylum. That has helped mitigate border crossing numbers under the Biden administration that many congressional Republicans already view as overwhelming. 

Ending the use of Title 42 likely would send immigration numbers even higher. The order is set to expire May 23.

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