Kate Morrissey, San Diego Union-Tribune, May 4, 2022
The Biden administration has expanded expulsions of Cubans and Nicaraguans under a controversial Trump-era pandemic policy, even as it argues publicly that it is time to end the practice.
That will include 100 Cubans and 20 Nicaraguans sent back from San Diego to Tijuana daily, a Mexican official confirmed with the San Diego Union-Tribune. A U.S. official told the Associated Press that the same numbers of each nationality will be expelled at two additional locations in Texas as well.
The expulsions are part of a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention order known as Title 42 that gives border officials the power to block asylum seekers and other migrants from reaching U.S. soil at ports of entry and expel them to Mexico or their home countries rather than processing them under normal immigration laws.
U.S. immigration law requires officials to screen migrants who fear returning home through the asylum system to see whether they qualify as refugees. Under Title 42, those screenings are skipped.
The U.S. has expelled migrants more than 1.8 million times since March 2020.
The additional expulsions of Cubans and Nicaraguans began April 27 and will end May 22, the U.S. official said on condition of anonymity because the agreement has not been made public.
The U.S. and Mexico reached the agreement the day before the expulsions began, according to a high-level Mexican official who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to comment publicly. It was prompted by an influx of migrants from those two countries coming to the U.S. border.
Mexico also took into account that the U.S. government had started processing visas in Cuba again, the official said.
Until last month, the CDC maintained that the policy was necessary to slow the spread of the coronavirus, though many public health experts contested the order’s effectiveness even in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The CDC announced that Title 42 would end on May 23, but a federal judge in Louisiana has temporarily blocked that decision from taking effect.
The administration has worked to negotiate with countries further south to receive expelled migrants, including a commitment from Colombia to receive Venezuelans after the number of Venezuelans arriving at the U.S. border went up.
More than 32,000 Cubans and 16,000 Nicaraguans were apprehended by Border Patrol agents in March, according to Customs and Border Protection data, the highest counts since the pandemic began. The share of monthly apprehensions for each nationality has also grown since the beginning of the Biden administration — from 3% to 15% of total apprehensions for Cubans and from 1% to 8% for Nicaraguans.