US defends expulsion of migrants amid easing restrictions on borders with Canada and Mexico


Migrants expelled from the United States and sent back to Mexico under Title 42 walk towards Mexico at the Paso del Norte International Border Bridge, in this photo taken from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico on October 1, 2021.

Jose Luis Gonzalez | Reuters

The Biden administration on Wednesday defended the use of the Trump-era health care law to deport illegal migrants across the country’s borders, even as it lifts restrictions on fully vaccinated foreign nationals traveling from Canada or Mexico to the United States.

The law, known as Section 42, “remains in effect,” White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said when asked if fully vaccinated migrant asylum seekers could enter the United States.

She told reporters on Wednesday that the relaxed travel restrictions would only allow fully vaccinated foreign nationals with “proper paperwork” to enter the United States.

The administration of then President Donald Trump introduced Section 42 in March 2020 over concerns over the Covid pandemic. Under Section 42, since its entry into force in March 2020, more than 1 million migrants have been expelled from the country. data from the US Customs and Border Protection

Senior administration officials on Tuesday said the US is preparing to reopen its land borders with Canada and Mexico to fully vaccinated foreign nationals in early November, ending the policy of restricting nonessential travel since it was introduced at the start of the pandemic.

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In practice, Section 42 means that anyone found to be illegally crossing the border, namely without a visa to enter or without going through an official border checkpoint, can be immediately deported without being allowed to seek asylum in the United States.

In the absence of Title 42, US law requires all migrants crossing the border, with or without paperwork, to be given the opportunity to seek asylum.

In August, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the policy will remain in place until the risk of non-US citizens bringing Covid-19 into the country at border crossings is no longer a concern. Unaccompanied children are exempt from the health law.

“The Section 42 restrictions actually apply to the protection of migrants themselves, DHS employees and local communities,” a senior administration official told reporters Tuesday. “There is now a solid public health foundation for the continuation of the Section 42 restrictions.”


The official also noted that health policies remain necessary as social distancing is difficult to enforce at border patrols where migrants are usually held.

Confusion over policy

Immigration lawyers and some Democrats have pointed to the inconsistency of vaccination status in the Biden administration’s border policy.

John Bruning, staff attorney for the Refugee and Immigrant Program at The Advocates for Human Rights, criticized the White House and Homeland Security Minister Alejandro Mallorcas.

“How is this consistent with Mallorcas doubling the number of Section 42 deportations? Migrants are being deported in a disciplinary manner, regardless of whether they were vaccinated or not, ”Bruning said in a tweet.

Julian Castro, a former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under the Obama administration, said in tweet that it was “great news” that the borders would be reopened, but a call for the end of Section 42.

“Now, our ports of entry should reopen so that people can apply for asylum,” Castro said in a statement on Wednesday. “Title 42 is a stain on this nation and needs to be done away with.”

The decision to keep Title 42 came as the Biden administration struggled with the largest number of migrants trying to illegally cross the US-Mexico border in two decades

Earlier on Tuesday, Mallorcas also defended the administration’s use of section 42, saying Yahoo News that it is a “public health authority” and not an “immigration policy”.

“This is not an immigration policy that we in this administration would have adopted,” Mallorcas said in an interview with Yahoo. “But we see it as a public health imperative, as mandated by the Centers for Disease Control.”

“We are in the midst of a pandemic,” he said. “For anyone who thinks this is a common thing, I believe, frankly, to ignore the pandemic that has claimed more than 700,000 American lives.”

The Center for Education and Legal Services for Refugees and Immigrants (RAICES) said on Twitter on Tuesday that the Biden administration is expelling asylum seekers without due process of law and “sending families and children back into imminent danger in the name of” public health. ” “

RAICES was among those groups that challenged health care policy in a lawsuit last month. The US Court of Appeals recently ruled that the Biden administration may continue to use Title 42 while the lawsuit is pending.

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