The southwestern border prepares for an influx
Title 42 is set to come to an end in four days. That's the pandemic-era CDC policy that allowed officials at the border to turn migrants and asylum seekers away because of public health concerns. But last month, a federal judge stopped the Biden administration from winding down this border policy and its fate is uncertain.
For now, lawmakers, asylum lawyers, and non-profits along the border continue to prepare for the expected surge that would accompany the end of this policy, whether it happens next week or months from now.
- Plus, a Russian soldier pleads guilty to killing an unarmed civilian in Ukraine.
- And, new research on COVID safety and outdoor events.
Guests: Michelle Hackman, immigration reporter for The Wall Street Journal; and Axios' Asher Price.
Credits: Axios Today is produced by Niala Boodhoo, Sara Kehaulani Goo, Alexandra Botti, Nuria Marquez Martinez, Alex Sugiura, and Lydia McMullen-Laird. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at [email protected]. You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.
- Judge grants temporary restraining order to keep Title 42 in place
- The future of large events and COVID
- Russian soldier pleads guilty to killing unarmed civilian
- DHS preparing for violence following abortion ruling
NIALA BOODHOO: Good morning! Welcome to Axios Today!
It’s Thursday, May 19th. I’m Niala Boodhoo.
Here’s what you need to know today: a Russian soldier pleads guilty to killing an unarmed civilian in Ukraine. Plus, new research on covid safety and outdoor events.
But first, the southwestern border prepares for an influx…that’s today’s One Big Thing.
Title 42 is set to come to an end in four days. That's the pandemic era CDC policy that allowed officials at the border to turn migrants and asylum seekers away because of public health concerns. But last month, a federal judge stopped the Biden administration from winding down this border policy. And its fate now is uncertain. In the meantime, lawmakers, asylum lawyers, and non-profits along the border continue to prepare for the expected surge that would accompany the end of this policy, whether it happens next week or months from now. So what actually happens along the border when there is a surge? And how are these groups preparing? To dig in we're joined now by Michelle Hackman, an immigration reporter with the Wall Street Journal. Hi, Michelle, welcome back to Axios Today.
MICHELLE HACKMAN: Thanks for having me.
NIALA: Let's start with what's happening in the courts Michelle. What did the ruling from this Louisiana judge say to the Biden administration?
MICHELLE: Yeah, sure. So there was this judge in Western Louisiana who oversaw the case from these, you know, 21 Republican states and basically, late last month in late April, he stopped the Biden administration from prepping to end Title 42. And that same judge, you know, indicated that he was likely to block the policy from ending altogether. He just didn't have the authority to do that until sort of, we got close to the date of it ending.
NIALA: And it's easy to lose sight of the fact that we are talking about people here. Axios spoke with a Texas Republican Representative Tony Gonzales. Let's hear what he had to say about the real impact he’s seeing with people in his district.
REP. TONY GONZALES: Last weekend it was over 102 degrees in South Texas. And people are being smuggled in trunks in box carts. People are dying every single day at the border from national guardsmen to everyday migrants, it's very sad and those are the stories that people aren't hearing.
NIALA: As we're thinking about Title 42 ending, what is the administration's plan to prevent this?
MICHELLE: There are sort of two different goals in mind, right? One goal is if you're expecting a lot of people to come across the border, claim asylum, which is the expectation, right? Title 42 prevents people from asking for asylum. And once you take it away, you know, it's expected that there's a lot of pent up demand. As long as those people are coming, you know, you have to treat it as an emergency event and handle it as best you can. The other bucket obviously is to actually try to slow down the number of people coming to the border. That has a lot to do with what's going on in Latin America, you know, economies are collapsing. There are dictatorships in several countries that have cracked down on their citizens. They claim that they're doing their best to work with sort of local governments, local organizations, to try to make the process of processing migrants as smooth as possible. So sort of the worst cases that sometimes you hear about on the news, you know, where like hundreds of migrants are dumped out of nowhere in these tiny towns, are avoided.
NIALA: One of those nonprofits is Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center in El Paso. And we spoke with its director Linda Corchado about how they've had to adapt to Title 42.
LINDA CORCHADO: We have been in a positive working relationship with CBP. At least in El Paso, there was a functioning border to some degree that was open to some asylum seekers.
NIALA: So if we're thinking about El Paso's port of entry, it processed more than 200 asylum seekers in one week at the beginning of the month. How has that been working despite Title 42 Michelle?
MICHELLE: Title 42, you know, is an international policy that the US is constantly negotiating with other countries. And one of the issues the Biden administration faced is that, you know, a couple months after they took office, Mexico basically turned around and said “enough, we're not taking everyone back anymore.” And they set limits on who they'd take back. For example, in a lot of places, they said “we won't take children back under the age of six.” In other places they said, “sorry, we'll only take Central American migrants, we will not take Cubans, we will not take Venezuelans.” So right now, if you're Cuban, you come to the border, there's no way you can get Title 42, because we have nowhere to send you. And that means instead you get to come into the United States, make your asylum claim. You know, this administration, approached organizations like Las America, in El Paso, and asked them to work with them, to identify what they describe as particularly vulnerable migrants. You know, someone who's LGBT, a migrant who's pregnant, for example, so that they could bring them through ports of entry and they've set up this whole system where they, they actually like COVID test people in Mexico and then they bring them across the border on buses.
NIALA: Michelle, we started this conversation by talking about the fact that Title 42 is likely to end at some point, right? Like whether it's now or months from now. Do you get the sense from all of these different groups that we've been talking about, whether they're nonprofits that work with asylum seekers or lawmakers or small town mayors. Are they prepared right now? And then what about if there is a surge?
MICHELLE: You know, what we've been dealing with over the last year would under, you know any circumstance be considered a surge already. The likely outcome of ending Title 42 is that for at least for a short time, the numbers would become even more elevated. The thing I will say is I don't think we're ever prepared. You know, when, when the surge actually happens, of course you can have done all the prep in the world, but, when you know, jails at the border get overcrowded, when you have tons of people, when you have a lot of people in really vulnerable situations where they might be over dehydrated, people are going to the hospital, unexpected things happen all the time. So there's no way to be totally prepared.
NIALA: Michelle Hackman covers immigration for the Wall Street Journal. Thanks Michelle.
MICHELLE: Thank you.
NIALA: In a moment, we’re back with some new COVID research to help inform what events you attend this summer.
NIALA: Welcome back to Axios Today! I’m Niala Boodhoo.
Although COVID numbers are on the rise nationally infection and death are still far below pandemic highs. And people are gathering again, both indoors and outdoors, but how do you know what the risk is of attending a gathering? Is it safer to go to a business conference with 3000 attendees or an outdoor festival with 50,000 people? Here to answer that question and explain why is Asher Price, a reporter for Axios based in Austin.
ASHER PRICE: Hey, thanks for having me.
NIALA: So what does the data tell us about which of these events is likely to be a safer bet in terms of contracting COVID?
ASHER: Head to the outdoor festival definitely. I think this is the kind of thing that a lot of Americans are wondering about nowadays as life picks back up. And research out of the University of Texas suggests that, although the sort of hypothetical outdoor festival they studied was 10 times the size of the hypothetical business conference, the outdoor festival was going to produce only double the number of infections within the community, during and following each of these events. In some ways this isn't super surprising, but this sort of modeling team at UT has started to put numbers on just how much riskier, still now, indoor events are than, than outdoor ones.
NIALA: I don't know if the model looked at whether or not everybody was vaccinated, or if people had gotten tested beforehand, what do we know about how effective those measures are before people gathered together.
ASHER: Yeah, the, the researchers looked at a few different variables, for example, one of the interesting things the researchers found was, testing turned out to be more important than having proof of vaccination. So testing ahead of time, 48 hours, or even even better 24 hours ahead of these events, limited the number of attendees who had COVID from attending than if they required proof of vaccination ahead of time.
NIALA: Asher Price is one of the authors of Axios Austin's newsletter. Thanks Asher.
ASHER : Thanks Niala for having me.
NIALA: A few more stories we’re watching today -
A 21-year old Russian soldier pleaded guilty to killing an unarmed civilian in the Sumy region during the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine. His war crimes trial in Kyiv is believed to be the first since the start of the invasion in February.
A scoop by Axios’ Sophia Cai and Stef Kight shows the US government is bracing for a potential surge in political violence once the expected Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v Wade comes down. That’s according to a memo from the Department of Homeland Security that details how they’re investigating social media threats to burn down or storm the Supreme Court building as well as attacks on places of worship and abortion clinics.
That’s it for us today!
I’m Niala Boodhoo - thanks for listening - stay safe and we’ll see you back here tomorrow morning.