A bipartisan group of senators will introduce a bill Thursday meant to force the Biden administration to delay ditching the Title 42 health policy next month, warning that suspending the order will unleash a humanitarian crisis as thousands of illegal immigrants flock to the southern border, according to a report.
The proposal, backed by five Democrats and six Republicans, will seek to postpone the scheduled May 23 rescission of Title 42 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention until the administration comes up with a plan to counter the expected influx.
“It just doesn’t seem at all workable that this, that whatever plan they’re working on right now, can be ready to implement in a way that is both safe for our border communities and respects the humanitarian crisis that is coming,” Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), who drafted the bill with Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.), told Axios.
“I do think it has a chance of passing, but it’s going to depend on which half of the Biden team wins out,” added Lankford, the top Republican on the Senate Border Management Subcommittee, which Sinema chairs.
”Is it the open-borders part of the Biden administration? … Or is it the portion of the Biden administration that says, ‘This gives us a good excuse to say those crazy folks in Congress compelled us to do this’ … and this becomes an excuse for them to not cause this kind of chaos in the border,” he added.
The CDC instituted Title 42 in March 2020, at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in the US. The public health order has allowed border officials to expel nearly 2 million migrants attempting to enter the US without hearing asylum claims.
Democratic co-sponsors of the bill include Sens. Mark Kelly of Arizona and Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, both of whom face tough re-election fights this November. Fellow Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Jon Tester of Montana have also signed on.
Republicans on board with the bill include Sens. John Thune of South Dakota, John Cornyn of Texas, Thom Tillis of North Carolina, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia and Rob Portman of Ohio.
Manchin, who represents a state that former President Donald Trump won by nearly 40 percentage points in 2020, has called the CDC’s decision to rescind the policy “frightening.”
“Title 42 has been an essential tool in combating the spread of COVID-19 and controlling the influx of migrants at our southern border. We are already facing an unprecedented increase in migrants this year, and that will only get worse if the Administration ends the Title 42 policy,” Manchin said last week. “We are nowhere near prepared to deal with that influx.”
Hassan, reacting after the CDC’s April 1 announcement that Title 42 would be scrapped, warned of the consequences of canceling the policy.
“Ending Title 42 prematurely will likely lead to a migrant surge that the administration does not appear to be ready for. I’ll keep pushing the administration to strengthen border security & look forward to hearing directly from border agents during my upcoming trip to the border,” she said on Twitter.
The White House told Axios that lawmakers should approve the administration’s request for $10 billion in new coronavirus-related funding.
“On the president’s first day in office, he sent an immigration bill to Congress that invests in smart solutions, effectively manages the border and addresses the root causes of migration. Those that are concerned about [the US] immigration system that [are] holding up COVID funding should pass it,” the White House said in a statement.
Senate Republicans voted against the spending bill on Wednesday, demanding that it include an amendment keeping Title 42 in place.
At Wednesday’s White House briefing, press secretary Jen Psaki said Title 42 is not an immigration policy, “it’s a public health measure,” and insisted the administration has a plan in place.
“But as we’re implementing this over the course of the next five weeks, if I’m doing my math correctly, we’ve also surged resources from the Department of Homeland Security. And we will continue to take additional steps to implement and make clear that this is not the time to come, that there are — there will still be significant measures put in place for anyone who tries to irregularly migrate to the United States,” she said.
Federal officials estimate that as many as 170,000 migrants will head to the border once the Title 42 policy ends.
The number of illegal immigrants encountered at the southern border shot up 6.6% in February from January, Customs and Border Protection said.