What the End of Title 42 Means

US is trying to discourage migrants from crossing illegally
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 12, 2023 7:46 AM CDT
What the End of Title 42 Means
Migrants wait in the cold at a gate in the border fence after crossing from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico into El Paso, Texas, in the early hours of Thursday, May 11, 2023.   (AP Photo/Andres Leighton)

The US is putting new restrictions into place at its southern border to try to stop migrants from crossing illegally and encourage them instead to apply for asylum online through a new process. The changes come with the end of Title 42 coronavirus restrictions on asylum that have allowed the US to quickly turn back migrants at the US-Mexico border for the past three years. Disinformation has swirled and confusion has set in during the transition. On Thursday night, migrants rushed to cross the border before restrictions ended. A look at the new rules (and the old ones):

  • What is Title 42 and what did it do? Title 42 is the name of an emergency health authority that began in March 2020 under the Trump administration. The authority allowed US officials to turn away migrants who came to the US-Mexico border on the grounds of preventing the spread of COVID-19. Migrants were returned over the border and denied the right to seek asylum. US officials turned away migrants more than 2.8 million times. Families and children traveling alone were exempt. But there were no real consequences when someone illegally crossed the border. So migrants were able to try again and again to cross, on the off chance they would get into the US. President Biden initially kept Title 42 in place after he took office, but the restrictions have ended following the ending of national COVID-19 emergencies.

  • So what's happening next? The Title 42 restrictions lifted at 11:59pm EDT Thursday. The Biden administration has put into place a series of new policies cracking down on illegal crossings. The administration says it's trying to stop people from paying smuggling operations to make a dangerous and often deadly journey. Now there will be strict consequences. Migrants caught crossing illegally will not be allowed to return for five years and can face criminal prosecution if they do.
  • New asylum rules. Under US and international law, anyone who comes to the US can ask for asylum. But the Biden administration is now turning away anyone seeking asylum who didn’t first seek protection in a country they traveled through, or first applied online. This is a version of a Trump administration policy that was overturned by the courts. Advocacy groups sued to block the new rule minutes before it took effect. The lawsuit, filed in federal court in San Francisco by the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies and other groups, alleges the Biden administration “doubled down” on the policy proposed by Trump that the same court rejected.
  • Who's allowed in? The US has said it will accept up to 30,000 people per month from Venezuela, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Cuba as long as they come by air, have a sponsor, and apply online first. The government also will allow up to 100,000 people from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras into the US who have family here if they, too, apply online.

  • What about families? Families crossing the border illegally will be subject to curfews and the head of household will have to wear an ankle monitoring bracelet. Immigration officials will try to determine within 30 days whether a family can stay in the US or be deported. Usually the process would take years.
  • Overcrowding. Border Patrol stations are meant to house migrants temporarily and don’t have capacity to hold the volume of people coming. Some stations are already too crowded. As a result, agents began releasing migrants into the US with instructions to appear at an immigration office within 60 days or face deportation. Agents were told to begin releases in any area where holding facilities were at 125% capacity or the average time in custody exceeded 60 hours. They also were told to start releases if 7,000 migrants were taken into custody across the entire border in any one day. Florida filed a lawsuit claiming the releases violate an earlier court ruling. Late Thursday, a federal judge agreed and temporarily halted the administration’s plan for releases.
(Biden predicted this week that the border will be "chaotic" for a while.)

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