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Behind the Present Problems at the Border

The lifting of the COVID-era Title 42 immigration policy does not mean the border is suddenly a lawless free-for-all.
May 15, 2023
Behind the Present Problems at the Border
CIUDAD JUÁREZ, MEXICO - MAY 13: Migrants, including minors traveling alone, cross back over the Rio Grande after being told by Texas National Guard members that they had to leave the area where they were gathered underneath the Zaragoza Bridge with the hopes of turning themselves in to seek asylum in the United States in Ciudad Juárez. The Texas National Guard recited Title 8 to the migrants and told them they had to leave and seek entry through an official port of entry. After the expiration of Title 42 on May 11, 2023, migrants will now be processed under Title 8. Title 42 was a pandemic-era policy first used by the Trump administration to deter the spread of COVID-19 in the U.S. and expanded under Biden's presidency before terminating. (Photo by Danielle Villasana for The Washington Post via Getty Images)

[On the May 12, 2023 episode of The Bulwark’s “Beg to Differ” podcast, panelist Linda Chavez discussed the lifting of pandemic-era border and immigration policies and the press speculation about the potential for humanitarian catastrophe.]

Let’s be clear that the lifting of Title 42 has entirely to do with the fact that we are no longer in a pandemic in which a health emergency exists, which allowed Title 42 to be invoked in the first place. We’re doing this because it’s tied to the lifting of the emergency that constituted COVID-19. I don’t think the administration had any choice on this. . . .

But that doesn’t mean that we don’t have enforcement mechanisms at the border. And in fact, Title 8, which is the primary method by which we remove people who try to come into the United States without authorization, is not only in effect but it’s pretty onerous.

One of the bad things about the use of Title 42 was we kept seeing these numbers: 2.4 million people apprehended and turned back—most of them. . . . Well, those were not necessarily 2.4 million individuals. Under Title 42, you’d send somebody back . . . and a few hours later, a few days later, that same person might cross again. Title 8 is a very different mechanism. And once you’ve been expelled under Title 8, if you try to come back again, you’re committing a felony, you can end up in jail, and your ability to ever come to the United States is affected.

And just being turned away under Title 8, with expedited removal, makes you ineligible to come again into the United States or attempt to come, for five years. . . .

The New York Times had a very interesting graphic—it was called “Who Gets In? The Guide to America’s Chaotic Border Rules.” And it’s sort of gives you the lay of the land into the way in which people come in. And you’re absolutely right, Mona. The Biden administration is gearing up and preparing for what’s likely to happen. . . . The administration, number one, provided ways for certain people trying to get into the United States to apply through an app on their telephones, to apply . . . in their home countries or in regional centers. And it gave them a method to do so that allowed them to come and be sponsored by somebody already in the United States, so that they not become a burden on communities, like the people we’re seeing sleeping on the sidewalks in places like El Paso.

Yet also, under Title 8, they can be turned back in an expedited removal. And I would assume that most of them will. Now, how many people who have legitimate claims for asylum will be turned away is an open question. I think that’s some of the criticism that we’re hearing from immigration advocates is that people who do have legitimate claims for asylum in the United States may in fact get caught up in this effort to turn back.

And I also think you have to remember that states like Texas—Governor Abbott, who’s created this special squad, I think it’s called Operation Lone Star, he’s actually got sheriffs in some counties who are engaging in their own efforts to arrest migrants who are coming across the border illegally.

So this idea that, you know, suddenly we’re going to have a million people on our border, they’re all going to come in, they’re going to become this huge burden—I don’t think it’s going to be quite that bad.

And I think the administration has gotten zero help from Congress in trying to do something that would relieve the pressure valve and allow people to come in legally, and so what they’ve done is to take administrative steps to try to provide avenues for certain people—Venezuelans, Haitians, Cubans Nicaraguans, for example—to be able to come in, 30,000 a month. And to be given at least temporary residence here so long as they have somebody, family member, friends, etc. who can provide assistance to them.

Linda Chavez

Linda Chavez is a senior fellow at the National Immigration Forum and served in the Reagan White House as director of public liaison. Her views are her own and do not necessarily reflect those of any organization.