Dozens of congressional Democrats on Tuesday pressured President Joe Biden to undo a Trump-era policy that removes the vast majority of migrants caught crossing the U.S.-Mexico border within hours of their arrest, the latest sign some Democrats and advocates want Biden to move faster in reversing former President Donald Trump’s immigration agenda.
In a letter prepared by Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.), over 60 House Democrats urged Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas to stop rapidly sending back border-crossers “as soon as practicable.”
The signatories argued this 11-month-old practice — enacted under a public health law known as Title 42 — is arbitrary and may violate migrants’ right to seek asylum, and rejected the notion that it prevents the transmission of coronavirus into the country.
The letter also encouraged Mayorkas to “employ alternative forms of humanitarian relief” during the Covid-19 pandemic more generally, arguing deportations put migrants at unnecessary risk of contracting the coronavirus.
The White House and Department of Homeland Security did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
“You have the power to halt these expulsions by repealing the Title 42 order, and you should use it as soon as possible,” the letter said.
Trump began rapid removals at the U.S-Mexico border last March, framing it as a public health measure meant to prevent Covid-19 from spreading in detention centers. Since then, advocates have blasted the practice, warning it puts migrants in danger and makes it nearly impossible for them to ask for asylum interviews, possibly running afoul of U.S. and international asylum law. The Biden administration promised to stop rapidly expelling unaccompanied children, but it has left the policy in place for adults so far, and officials are warning that most migrants should expect to be turned away at the border.
444,159. That’s how many rapid expulsions U.S. Border Patrol conducted at the southern border between March and January. The total number of migrants arrested is likely far lower, since Title 42 has made repeat offenders very common.
Biden has spent weeks reversing key parts of Trump’s immigration strategy: He ended a ban on travel from several majority-Muslim countries, and he’s trying halt most deportations for 100 days. However, the administration has warned some Trump-era policies could take longer to undo, leading advocacy groups to push Biden to pick up the pace. After Biden rolled out new restrictions on who U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement should consider a priority for arrest, the American Civil Liberties Union called it a “disappointing step backward” and argued for even stricter limits on ICE’s powers. Plus, pro-immigrant groups have urged Biden to move faster in unwinding Trump’s “remain in Mexico” policy, which required thousands of asylum-seekers to live in Mexican border towns while waiting for their day in court.
Biden moves to reverse Trump immigration policies, too slowly for some (Reuters)