WASHINGTON — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Friday it would lift a public health emergency ordinance that had restricted immigration at U.S. land borders since the start of the pandemic, citing “current public health conditions and increased availability of tools to cope with Covid19.”
Federal officials expect the policy change, which will take effect on May 23, will draw thousands of migrants to the southwest border every day, in addition to the already large number of people who have arrived from Latin America and around the world in the past year. the globe. Republicans, who have described the border situation under President Biden as unmanageable, immediately condemned the CDC’s decision. The order has been used about 1.7 million times to deport migrants in the past two years.
“These measures, along with the current public health landscape where 97.1 percent of the U.S. population lives in a county identified as having a ‘low’ Covid-19 community level, will sufficiently reduce the Covid-19 risk to U.S. communities,” according to the CDC. in a statement. The CDC also said it has the right to reissue the order if necessary.
The order, known as Title 42, gives officials the power to expel migrants at the border, including asylum seekers. The process takes about 15 minutes, a factor that has helped the border patrol manage the sometimes overwhelming number of undocumented migrants gathering at the border. Without the order, stations will be more overcrowded and there will be backups as officials go through the typical screening process, which can take more than an hour per person.
The continuation of the public health order over the past two years pushed the typically apolitical CDC into the heated immigration debate.
The agency came under increasing pressure from Democratic lawmakers, including Majority Leader New York Senator Chuck Schumer, to not only end the rule but justify why it was necessary. Public health experts have questioned the value of the coronavirus containment order, especially at this point in the pandemic. The Biden administration this week began offering vaccinations to undocumented migrants at the border.
News of the decision broke on Wednesday; it is expected to face legal challenges.
When the CDC explained in August why it was extending the order, there were an average of more than 60,000 Covid-19 cases per day, the highly transmissible Delta variant caused more hospitalizations and increased deaths from the virus.
Currently, cases in most of the United States have fallen sharply and the CDC has relaxed many restrictions. The average number of cases on Thursday was less than 28,000 per day. An Omicron subvariant, BA.2, could spark another wave in the United States in the coming months, although it doesn’t appear to cause widespread serious illness in Europe, where cases are higher.
The White House and the Department of Homeland Security have forwarded questions about the policy to the CDC in recent months, which said little about the reason for extending the warrant.
But unlike other public health measures taken during the pandemic, the CDC has never made public any scientific data showing that undocumented migrants crossing the border were a major vector for the coronavirus.
“It is far from clear that the CDC’s order serves any purpose,” a panel of judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit wrote in a March ruling on a public health rule case.
The order — which proponents say has put many people displaced under it at great risk due to violence, poverty and instability in their home countries — has faced several lawsuits. Immigration advocates were under the impression that the Biden administration was trying to lift the rule for some migrants last summer, but that never happened.
Some proponents said this week that waiting until the end of May to lift the order would further endanger the lives of vulnerable migrants seeking asylum.
“Given the time the Administration has had to plan for the end of Title 42, the number of lives at stake each day, and the court decisions finding Title 42 illegal, it is essential that the Administration begin immediately tapering off Title 42 and not waiting to do so. until the end of May,” said Lee Gelernt, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union who was one of the leading voices calling for the lifting of the migrant family rule.
Some critics have also said the rule has fueled racist ideas that immigrants are bringing the infection to the United States.
dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the country’s top infectious disease expert, has said immigrants were not a driving force behind the spread of the coronavirus in the United States.
“Focusing on immigrants, evicting them or whatever is not the answer to an outbreak,” he told DailyExpertNews in October.
Even before the pandemic, the Trump administration tried to get the CDC to use its power to issue such an order to deal with an outbreak of mumps in immigration detention centers in six states, and separately when border patrol stations were hit. by flu. Those efforts were unsuccessful, in part because other government officials claimed there was no legal basis.