Posted on August 3, 2021

U.S. Extends Migrant Expulsion Policy

Camilo Montoya-Galvez, CBS News, August 2, 2021

The Biden administration on Monday said that it would indefinitely continue the Trump-era policy of swiftly expelling migrants and asylum-seekers from the U.S., citing the rapidly-spreading COVID-19 Delta variant and the highest number of unlawful border crossings in over 20 years.

Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), issued a new order supporting the continued enforcement of the Title 42 public health authority, which was first invoked by the Trump administration in March 2020 to shutter U.S. borders to migrants.

By citing Title 42, U.S. officials at the southern border are able to expel migrants to Mexico or their home countries without allowing them to apply for humanitarian refuge. The so-called “expulsions” are designed to prevent overcrowding and COVID outbreaks inside short-term Border Patrol facilities, government officials have argued.

Walensky said that discontinuing the expulsions, as some advocates had urged, would cause “severe overcrowding and a high risk of COVID-19 transmission” among migrants in U.S. custody and border agents. Health care systems in communities along the U.S.-Mexico border would also be overburdened, she added.

“All of this is of particular concern as the Delta variant continues to drive an increase in COVID-19 cases,” Walensky wrote in her order. “While scientists learn more about Delta and other emerging variants, rigorous and increased compliance with public health mitigation strategies is essential to protect public health.”

Migrant adults and families, Walensky determined, should continue to be expelled “pending further improvements in the public health situation.”

David Shahoulian, the top Department of Homeland Security (DHS) official overseeing border policy, said in a court filing Monday that an abrupt end to Title 42 would exacerbate overcrowding at migrant holding facilities already over capacity and fuel more migration.

The U.S. expects to record about 210,000 migrant apprehensions along the southern border in July, which would mark the highest monthly total since 2000, according to government data submitted to a federal court. It also expects to record 80,000 apprehensions of parents and children traveling as families, and 19,000 of unaccompanied minors — an all-time high.

As of Sunday, Border Patrol was detaining 17,778 migrants, with its holding facilities collectively at 377% capacity. Seven of nine Border Patrol sectors were over capacity, including Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, where the largest holding facility for unaccompanied minors and families was at 446% of its capacity.


Monday’s announcement is a major setback for advocates supporting asylum-seekers who had been pushing the Biden administration for months to lift the Title 42 policy. They have denounced the Title 42 expulsions as an illegal Trump administration policy that denies migrants U.S. sanctuary and places them in harm’s way.


Earlier on Monday, the American Civil Liberties Union resumed its lawsuit against the border expulsions, saying its months-long negotiations with the Biden administration had collapsed. {snip}