May 2, 2023 - Politics & Policy

U.S. braces for border chaos with Title 42 set to expire next week

Texas National Guard soldiers stand guard at the U.S.-Mexico border. Photo: John Moore/Getty Images)

The Biden administration is launching migrant processing centers in Central and South America and deploying 1,500 additional troops to the border in anticipation of the Trump-era Title 42 pandemic policy ending on May 11.

Why it matters: The expiration of Title 42 marks a political and logistical inflection point for President Biden's immigration policy, a top target of Republican criticism — and now legislation in the House — as officials have struggled to stem a years-long surge in border crossings.

  • Title 42 allowed immigration authorities to rapidly turn back hundreds of thousands of people without giving them a chance for asylum.
  • The scenes at the border could turn chaotic as tens of thousands of migrants and asylum seekers appear set to make the dangerous journey post-Title 42, exacerbating a longstanding humanitarian crisis.

Driving the news: The administration is surging 1,500 troops for 90 days to the U.S.-Mexico border — with a total of 4,000 military personnel assigned to assisting border officials with various non-law enforcement tasks.

  • The U.S. is also opening new processing centers in Colombia and Guatemala, which will allow migrants to be pre-screened for lawful pathways such as asylum, refugee status or parole before adding to crowding at the border.
  • Meanwhile, House Republicans plan to time a floor vote on the newly introduced "Secure the Border Act of 2023" with the end of Title 42 next week. The bill would reinstate several of former President Trump's most controversial border policies.

On the ground: Some border cities, such as El Paso, Texas, have already started to see an uptick in recently arrived migrants in their communities.

  • Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-Texas), who represents El Paso, said the vast majority of migrants living in a new encampment are undocumented and evaded Border Patrol when crossing.
  • Republican bill language from last year's omnibus has restricted El Paso’s ability to use federal funds to provide shelter to these migrants.

What to watch: There is one big piece of the post-Title 42 puzzle missing — Mexico.

  • Mexico has agreed to accept Venezuelans, Nicaraguans, Cubans and Haitians under Title 42 as part of much-lauded new parole processes put in place by the Biden administration earlier this year.
  • These policies led to a significant decline in illegal border crossings from those four nationalities.
  • But despite ongoing talks with the U.S., it's unclear whether Mexico will agree to continue taking in non-Mexicans rejected by the U.S. without the Title 42 mechanism.

What they're saying: Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, issued a scathing statement slamming the administration's "militarization of the border" as "unacceptable."

  • "The administration has had over two years to plan for the eventual end of this Trump-era policy in a way that does not compromise our values as a country," the Democrat said.
  • "Trying to score political points or intimidate migrants by sending the military to the border caters to the Republican Party’s xenophobic attacks on our asylum system."
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