On May 20, 2022, a federal judge from Louisiana stopped the Biden administration from suspending a public health order known as Title 42. Title 42, which is a part of the Public Health Services Act, gives the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) the ability to prevent migrants from entering the United States in order to protect the country's overall public health. Even though this policy was ostensibly enacted to stop the spread of COVID-19, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the current Chief Medical Advisor to the President of the United States, stated that immigrants are not a major cause of the increase in COVID-19 cases.
The Trump administration implemented this act in March of 2020. The purpose of Title 42 is to monitor and control the arrival of immigrants attempting to enter the United States (mainly at the nation’s southwest border) to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Despite immigration officials using title 42 to remove over two million immigrants, The United States Department of Homeland Security said Title 42 is not used to control immigration; instead, it is a public health order. The Biden administration has reinforced Title 42 with slight changes since taking office. However, the administration intended on lifting the restrictions on May 23, 2022. Furthermore, the administration stated that migrants who were not eligible to enter and stay in the United States would be detained and deported following the suspension of the act. The administration announced that if Title 42 is lifted, the previously utilized Title 8 would take over once again. Under the enactment of Title 8, individuals who try to enter the United States without authorization and or established legal reasons to stay in the country are subject to various consequences, including being banned from receiving immigration benefits in the future.
Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Title 42 has become less discussed in public health debates and more relevant in immigration policy. On May 16, 2022, federal judge Robert R. Summerhays (R - LA) stopped the Biden administration from being able to lift Title 42. Summerhays defended this action by stating that the Biden administration breached administrative level procedure laws; doing away with Title 42 would cause “irreparable harm.” Lifting Title 42 would result in states spending money on law enforcement, health care, education, and other necessities for immigrants.
Following Summerhays’ decision, twenty-four Republican-controlled states sued the Biden administration. Various services would be provided to the migrants by taxpayers living in these states if Title 42 were suspended, which might upset many individuals already residing in these states. In addition, these twenty-four states also referenced the need to prevent a “wave of illegal migration and drug trafficking,” which they collectively believe would increase if Title 42 was uplifted. The current Texas Attorney General, Ken Paxton, tweeted in celebration of the ruling: “I am glad for our state and our nation that it will remain in place.” Furthermore, Texas governor Greg Abbott stated, "We remain vigilant in fighting the lifting of Title 42 expulsions.” Many Republicans believe suspending Title 42 would result in many migrants trying to enter the United States, disrupting the equilibrium and balance in their local communities.
On the other hand, Title 42’s critics are disappointed in the decision to keep Title 42 and the treatment of migrants as a whole. Tami Goodlette, Director of Litigation at the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services in Texas, criticized the current president for not having immediately lifted Title 42 upon taking office a year and a half ago. She defended her statement by stating, “Title 42 was never about public health, but rather is shrouded in racism, as doctors and public health experts have made clear that immigration is not a source of pandemic spread. President Biden must keep his promise to undo Trump’s anti-immigrant policies and fight this decision and use every administrative tool at his disposal to fight back against the right-wing extremists who led the states that brought the suit, including Louisiana and Arizona.” Many Democrats believe that overturning Title 42 would curate negative discussion among the Republicans. Still, the action also upset many immigration activists who advocate for the migration of these individuals into the country. Another elected official concerned about the decision was Congressman Raul Ruiz, a Democrat from California. He stated, “today’s federal court ruling on Title 42 is outrageous, ridiculous, and erodes our asylum system. Title 42 is a public health emergency policy that can be initiated and ended by an administration. It is not a way to manage the border. Furthermore, Title 42 denies asylum seekers their legal rights under American law due process in the U.S. and goes counter to international humanitarian norms and values.”
Overturning Title 42 would most likely result in a significant increase of migrants entering the United States. Many border officials believe that the southwest border would specifically see a spike in immigrant arrivals. Doris Meissner, the United States immigration policy program leader at the Migration Policy Institute, supports this idea, stating, "Whenever Title 42 is lifted, there is likely, almost certainly, to be a surge. It will, no matter what, be perceived by intending migrants, and most importantly by smugglers, as the time to come." An increase in potential migrants could result in longer wait times for the immigration process, a reduction in resources, and overall frustration for government officials trying to keep immigration under control. These situations are strong arguments for many individuals who do not wish to see the end of Title 42.
However, many advocates point out that from a strictly public health viewpoint, Title 42 should no longer exist. The Biden administration intends on appealing the May ruling, but in the meantime Title 42 remains intact.