Biden administration plans to end Title 42 in May

San Antonio, Texas (CNN) — The Biden administration plans to end Trump-era pandemic restrictions on the border with Mexico, which have largely blocked immigrants from entering the United States, by May 23, according to three US officials.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is finalizing its evaluation of the public health authority, known as Title 42, according to CDC spokeswoman Kathleen Conley, and is expected to announce a decision this week on whether to revoke, modify or extend the authority.

The Biden administration has been under mounting pressure from Democrats and immigrant advocates to end public health authority, which critics say was never justified by science and puts immigrants in danger.

What is Title 42 and how does it affect migrants to enter the US? 3:43

Former President Donald Trump invoked the authority at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, a move that was immediately met with skepticism by immigrant advocates, public health experts and even administration officials who believed it was politically motivated. . However, the Biden administration continued to rely on Title 42 despite the objections of its allies.

According to data from the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP), since March 2020, 1.7 million migrants have been sent back to Mexico or their country of origin.

Managing the US-Mexico border is a politically precarious issue for President Joe Biden ahead of the midterm elections as Republicans criticize the administration for its immigration agenda. Over the past year, Biden has already dealt with an influx of unaccompanied migrant children and a surge of migrants in Del Rio, Texas, resulting in thousands of people under a bridge.

If the order is lifted, it is expected to have immediate ramifications. Department of Homeland Security officials are preparing for the worst case scenario of as many as 18,000 people trying to cross the border daily, a number that is sure to overwhelm border facilities that are already full.

The Associated Press first reported on the administration’s plans.

Three planning scenarios have been designed to activate the resources that might be required. The first scenario is where the current arrest numbers are, the second scenario is up to 12,000 people per day and the third scenario is up to 18,000 people per day, according to a planning document.

“The nature and scope of migration has fundamentally changed,” a Department of Homeland Security official told reporters Tuesday.

The Department of Homeland Security established a “Southwest Border Coordination Center” to coordinate a response to a potential surge among federal agencies. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas appointed FEMA Region 3 Regional Administrator MaryAnn Tierney in March to lead the center.

An end to the Trump-era pandemic restrictions would mean a return to traditional protocols, which could include releasing migrants into the US while they go through their immigration procedures, detaining migrants, or deporting them if they don’t have a visa application. asylum. Migrants who are released into the US can enroll in alternative-to-detention programs for ongoing monitoring.

As part of the planning, the Department of Homeland Security is also arranging transport contracts to transport migrants detained at the border to reception, establishing additional facilities for processing and reinforcing staff on the ground. The administration has already begun offering COVID-19 vaccines to migrants at the southern border of the United States.

“This is what we do at the Department of Homeland Security. We plan for all kinds of contingency events, whether they’re high or low probability,” another Homeland Security official said.

Tens of thousands of people on the US-Mexico border

An estimated 30,000 to 60,000 people are in northern Mexico waiting to cross the southern US border, according to a federal law enforcement official.

Intelligence assessments have found that people are in a “wait and see” mode and trying to determine when they have the best chance of entering the US, the official said, adding that some of the 30,000 to 60,000 people they could try to get in within hours if the CDC rule is repealed.

The White House has held interagency meetings on intelligence and the general situation, the official said.

“The key is whether (migrants) perceive whether they have a higher chance of success,” the official said.

Border arrests are expected to soon reach 1 million in total, months before the end of the fiscal year, US Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz said Tuesday. Those numbers also include repeat crossers.

Among the challenges for officials is the shift in demographics reaching the southern border of the United States. About 40% of the detained migrants come from countries other than Mexico and the Northern Triangle countries of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, according to a Homeland Security official.

“I think it’s important that since we’re dealing with increased flow right now that we deal with this as much as we can,” Ortiz said.

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