WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration is relying on a contested Trump-era policy as it disperses thousands of Haitian migrants along the U.S.-Mexico border in and around the small South Texas city of Del Rio.
Much to the dismay of migrant advocates, the Department of Homeland Security is invoking the public health law known as Title 42 to quickly take Haitians into custody and fly them back to their troubled homeland, denying them an opportunity to make a claim to stay in the U.S. by seeking asylum.
DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said Monday that most of the Haitians removed from the Del Rio encampment have been expelled under the authority of Title 42, angering human rights activists and others who had hoped to see the policy ended by an administration that has otherwise sought to reverse much of Trump’s immigration agenda.
A look at the law and the controversy that surrounds it:
WHAT IS TITLE 42 AND WHY ARE WE TALKING ABOUT IT NOW?
Title 42 of the Public Health Service Act gives federal health officials powers during a pandemic to take extraordinary measures to limit transmission of an infectious disease.
It’s not a new power. The authority has, in various forms, been around since 1893. The Trump administration invoked it in March 2020 to sweeping effect, prohibiting entry by virtually anyone from Mexico and Canada and essentially sealing the northern and southern borders.
It was ostensibly intended to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in cramped Border Patrol stations or in facilities run by Immigration and Customs and Enforcement. Critics of the policy see it as a thinly disguised measure to thwart immigration, noting it deprives people of the right to claim asylum or seek to remain in the U.S. through some other legal avenue.
Former federal health officials told The Associated Press last year that the Trump administration overruled government scientists who said there was no evidence that invoking Title 42 would slow the coronavirus. Nevertheless, the public health order remains in place and hundreds of thousands of people have been expelled under its authority.