‘Great concern’: Dem senators urge Biden not to end Trump-era border restrictions without a plan

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In a break with Democratic leadership, Arizona Sens. Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly are warning President Joe Biden of an impending disaster if he ends former President Donald Trump’s Title 42 restrictions without a “comprehensive plan” in place to secure the border.

“We write to you to express great concern about the lack of a specific plan from your Administration with respect to potential changes to the Title 42 Public Health authority, which the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has relied on at the border during the coronavirus pandemic,” the letter to the president reads.

“Given the impacts that changes to Title 42 could have on border communities, border security, and migrants, we urge your Administration not to make any changes to Title 42 implementation until you are completely ready to execute and coordinate a comprehensive plan that ensures a secure, orderly, and humane process at the border. We also request that you provide a full briefing to Congress on your plan before implementation and execution,” they added.

“On June 23, 2021, we wrote to Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas urging DHS to proactively establish and execute such a comprehensive plan in advance of an end to Title 42 authority and to brief our offices on this plan. Both of us followed that request with further outreach to DHS on this topic in the ensuing months,” the letter continued.

“To date, we have not yet seen evidence that DHS has developed and implemented a sufficient plan to maintain a humane and orderly process in the event of an end to Title 42. We are aware of the updated Irregular Mass Migration Contingency Plan that DHS has developed, but – with potential changes to Title 42 coming as early as next week – that strategy contains unanswered questions and does not seem likely to allow DHS to secure the border, protect our communities, and ensure migrants are treated fairly and humanely,” the letter went on to warn.

“For the past two years, DHS has relied upon the health emergency authority under Title 42 to expel many migrants who would otherwise have potentially been held in congregate settings by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Last month alone, CBP expelled 91,513 migrants under Title 42, and processed 73,460 individuals under Title 8.1 The January figures are comparable, showing only a slight trend upward on the number of expulsions,” the letter asserted.

“Of those encounters, nearly thirty percent occurred in Arizona.2 A sharp end to Title 42 without a comprehensive plan in motion would significantly increase the strain on DHS, border communities, and local nonprofits that are already near or at capacity,” it continued.

“In the time that Title 42 has remained a temporary emergency authority, the United States has made progress in containing the transmission of COVID-19. This emergency authority should not be in effect indefinitely. Many expelled migrants have been waiting in limbo for months or years in dangerous locations, making them vulnerable to exploitation. At the same time, chaos at the border in a post-Title 42 scenario also negatively affects migrants’ safety and could further strain an already overwhelmed health care system at the border. DHS must ensure their process at the border prioritizes the health, safety, and security of our border communities and prevents a humanitarian crisis that would harm migrants,” the letter went on to elaborate.

“Given the prolonged reliance on Title 42 and continued high numbers of migrants crossing the order, any changes to the authority require robust and pragmatic preplanning, clear communications with border communities and stakeholders, and advance deployment of additional resources,” the lawmakers noted in the letter.

“This response will require coordination between DHS, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and other partner agencies including Health and Human Services, the Department of Justice, and the Department of State. Different sectors and border communities will require different resources, so the plan must be developed in consultation with local government leaders and community organizations, including those providing services to migrants. Such groups in Arizona have not been consulted about Title 42 changes. Until the Administration does that type of consultation with local government leaders and nonprofits along the border, it is premature to consider changes to Title 42 authorities,” it cautioned.

“As Arizona’s senators, we urge you to continue providing additional border management and security resources to Arizona so that our border communities do not have to bear any unnecessary burdens from Title 42 changes. Thank you for your attention to this matter. Please provide a response by March 31, 2022,” the senators’ letter concluded.

The Biden administration is rumored to be strongly considering ending Title 42 which was put in force in March 2020 during the Trump administration to provide for quick expulsion of illegal immigrants due to COVID concerns. It is up for renewal next week.

Biden has kept the order in effect with some limitations. It has acted as more of an immigration policy for controlling illegal immigration than a public health order.

Immigration activists, including some top Democrats, want it gone. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is among those who want it punted.

“Title 42 has been nothing short of disastrous for immigrant families seeking asylum from the horrors in their own countries,” Schumer told reporters earlier in March, according to the Border Report. “It is unacceptable that this policy continues to be used indiscriminately to remove migrants with valid refugee claims from our Southern border.”

“I continue to be disappointed, deeply disappointed in the administration’s response. Title 42 goes against everything this country stands for,” he asserted.

Many, including some within the Biden administration, are reportedly concerned that removing the restrictions will result in a “mass migration event” this spring and summer that would be even worse than last year. And this year is an election year.

DHS is now looking for volunteers to help the Border Patrol according to Fox News. On Wednesday, a top Pentagon official reportedly confirmed that DHS had asked the Department of Defense for additional support due to a potential increase in illegal immigrants coming across the border.


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