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President Joe Biden is reportedly weighing whether to end a pandemic policy of turning away the tens of thousands of migrant families that illegally cross the border each month from Mexico into the United States.
Biden administration officials are considering ending by July 31 a border policy that allows federal law enforcement to turn away any person encountered at the southern border immediately. The move would mean that family groups that came over the border without permission would be taken into custody and likely released into the U.S.
Under legal authorities known as Title 42, the Border Patrol has not had to take illegal crossers and asylum-seekers into its custody since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. At the time, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended against arresting and detaining people because it would have created high potential for the spread of the virus in crowded patrol stations. Instead, the March 2020-enacted policy allowed federal authorities to transport all families, adults, and children to a nearby port of entry and push them back into Mexico.
Asked about a timeline for lifting the policy, amid increased COVID-19 vaccine availability and declining cases, press secretary Jen Psaki said the White House would leave the announcement to the health department overseeing the rule.
“I don't have any new policy to announce when it comes to Title 42. There's been no change,” Psaki told reporters Monday. “We're not, of course, going to get ahead of the [CDC] decision … we would let them pursue that process.”
At present, the majority of families at the border are not being returned, despite the policy, because Mexico has refused to take back families on the basis that its own border shelters do not have the room to hold returned families, as well as families who are traveling north to the border. If Biden chose to end Title 42 for families, it would force the Border Patrol to take into custody all who arrive as part of a family set, of which there were 40,000 in May, 48,000 in April, and 53,000 in March.
The Biden administration already chose earlier this year to stop turning away children who show up by themselves. Some families opted to send their child across the border alone, recognizing that the child would not be immediately sent back to Mexico but released to a family member or friend in the U.S.
Ending family expulsions could go one of two ways, according to Axios. The White House could end it on its own but at the risk of prompting more families to migrate to the U.S., which would anger Republicans who say Biden undid President Donald Trump's policies and prompted the surge at the border.
However, the American Civil Liberties Union is holding the threat of a lawsuit over the White House. If Biden does not stop returning families and the ACLU sues when it lifts its pause on litigation on July 2, which the group has already extended several times since the president took office in January, Biden's Justice Department could be forced to defend the Trump program.
The CDC's decision is not informed by the lawsuit, Psaki said.
"There's a policy process that's ongoing that's unrelated to the litigation," she added.
A lawsuit could also reveal confidential details of the asylum process and the administration's positions on immigration, a sensitive issue for the White House as it comes under pressure from Democrats and immigration advocates.
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Original Author: Anna Giaritelli, Katherine Doyle