A trio of Senate Republicans on Wednesday urged President Joe Biden to quickly sign an executive order similar to the expiring Title 42 policy that has expelled migrants during the COVID-19 pandemic.
What You Need To Know
- A trio of Senate Republicans on Wednesday urged President Joe Biden to quickly sign an executive order similar to the expiring Title 42 policy that has expelled migrants during the COVID-19 pandemic
- The policy’s expiration May 11 is expected to bring a surge of migrants to the southern border
- The Biden administration says it’s been preparing for more than a year for the end of Title 42
- Republican Sens. John Cornyn, Lindsey Graham and Ted Cruz said Biden's decision to send 1,500 troops to the border won't stop the surge
The Biden administration will end the 3-year-old national emergency and public health emergencies May 11, which also will lift Title 42, authorized under former President Donald Trump.
The policy’s expiration is expected to bring a surge of migrants to the southern border.
“What is currently a flood of humanity coming across the border is getting ready to become a tsunami,” Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, told reporters during a news conference at the Capitol.
The Biden administration, which fought in court to end Title 42, says it’s been preparing for more than a year for what's to come. On Tuesday, it announced it will send 1,500 active-duty troops to the border. And Wednesday, the U.S. and Mexico announced an agreement on new immigration policies aimed at deterring illegal border crossings while also opening up other pathways for entry.
Last week, officials said they have hired 300 additional border patrol agents, will help countries in the region step up security to counter smuggling in the first 60 days and are fighting back against disinformation, namely smugglers falsely telling people the U.S.-Mexico border is open.
Officials also said there will be “significant consequences” for those who do not use legal pathways, including an expansion of expedited removal processing, a five-year ban on reentry and potential criminal prosecutions for repeated attempts to enter the country unlawfully.
The Biden administration also announced it is opening migrant processing centers in Central and South America to deter people from traveling to the border, although the program will take time to get up and running.
“We are doing everything that we can to put programs, to put processes in place to deal with what will occur at the border,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Wednesday.
Cornyn and Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Ted Cruz of Texas only mentioned a couple of those actions in Wednesday’s news conference. All three said the troops will do little to address a migrant surge because they are barred legally from participating in civilian law enforcement activities.
“They can’t enforce immigration law,” Cornyn said. “All they can do is change diapers and push paper. In other words, under the law, they can only perform administrative functions.”
Added Graham: “I think it's ridiculous theater. It will not change the outcome. They're not going to be there as soldiers turning people around.”
Graham called the plan for foreign processing centers “a good idea,” comparing it to the Trump-era Remain in Mexico policy that Biden discontinued. That policy required asylum seekers to wait in Mexico for hearings in U.S. immigration court.
But the Republicans senators said the Biden administration is making a mistake by not substituting Title 42 with a comparable policy. Title 42 has been used 2.5 million times to expel migrants since March 2020.
“It's been used by the administration probably more than any tool in the toolbox,” Graham said. “And they're taking out of the toolbox one of the most effective tools they have to deter illegal immigration.”
Title 42 helped drive down the number of encounters between migrants and Customs and Border Protection agents by 46% from fiscal year 2019 to 2020, according to government data. Under Biden, border encounters in fiscal year 2022 hit 2.4 million, more than five times 2020 levels.
CBP data shows border encounters in the first three months of this year were down 7% compared to the same time period in 2022.
Jean-Pierre said Monday that Biden’s policies have cut down illegal migration by more than 90%, later citing the expansion of parole programs. A fact check by the Center for Immigration Studies found her claim to be false.
Regardless, Graham criticized the Biden administration for granting parole status to tens of thousands of migrants.
“This was meant to be used judiciously,” he said.
And Cornyn said migrants are exploiting the asylum process.
“If you claim asylum, you're going to be allowed to go to the interior of the country, perhaps never to be heard from again,” he said. “So that's the reason people keep coming in and saying the words they know they need to say, that they'd been coached to say.”
The flow of migrants is leading to lethal fentanyl being smuggled into the country while some unaccompanied minors are being forced into labor, Republican said. Meanwhile, migrants making the trek across Central American and Mexico toward the border are being killed, assaulted and raped, they added.
“What will it take to get Joe Biden's attention?” Cornyn asked.
Cruz said the fatal shooting of five people, including a 9-year-old boy, in a home in Cleveland, Texas, last week, allegedly by their neighbor, a Mexican national, is an example of how Biden’s border policies are harming the U.S.
“That crime should never have happened,” Cruz said. “Those five people should still be alive. That child should still be alive. But the open border policies that Biden and [Vice President Kamala] Harris have put in place are causing misery and suffering and death every day.”
Biden administration officials have repeatedly called for Congress to pass legislation on immigration reform, with Jean-Pierre saying this week, “Republicans in Congress are getting in the way.”
The Republican senators said Wednesday they have discussed and introduced bills to “fix this problem,” but accused Democrats of blocking their efforts.