Sens. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., and Kyrsten Sinema, I-Ariz., are introducing legislation that would temporarily allow for migrant expulsions at the southern border to continue after the Title 42 public health order ends next week — amid widespread concerns that the order’s expiration will lead to an overwhelming migrant surge.
The lawmakers say they intend to introduce a bill that would grant similar authorities to Title 42, which allows for the rapid expulsion of migrants at the southern border due to the COVID-19 pandemic and has been in place since March 2020.
It has been used by both the Biden and Trump administrations to expel migrants at the border and has become a central cog of border enforcement, and it is due to end on May 11 along with the COVID-19 national emergency. In March, approximately 46% of migrant encounters resulted in a Title 42 encounter. The looming end of the order has renewed fears of a new migrant surge on top of the existing high levels of migration that have been seen at the border over the last two years.
The legislative fix would not directly extend Title 42 as that is a pandemic-era public health order, but it would give the administration a temporary expulsion authority to mimic it.
Tillis told Fox News in an interview that ‘what we’re trying to do is make it as clean as possible, basically extending the current policy.’
‘The Biden Administration has failed to secure the border and the situation will get even worse once Title 42 is allowed to expire,’ he said in a separate statement. ‘It’s clear that Congress must immediately step in, and the bipartisan bill I’m introducing with Senator Sinema will help prevent the catastrophic fallout at the border we will soon see if no action is taken.’
‘Arizona border communities, law enforcement agencies, non-profits, and families are being left to manage a crisis they did not create. Our legislation gives the Administration time to actually implement a realistic, workable plan that will secure our border, protect Arizona communities on the frontlines (sic) of this crisis, and ensure migrants are treated fairly and humanely,’ Sinema wrote.
The bill is also sponsored by Sens. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., who accused the administration of having ‘failed to properly secure our southern border’ despite ‘ample’ notice of Title 42’s expiration.
‘The immigration crisis is only getting worse and our broken immigration system is ill-equipped to handle it,’ Manchin said in a statement. ‘Our bipartisan legislation creates a two-year temporary solution to prevent a complete collapse at our southern border. Now, our political leaders must put partisanship aside to finally secure our border, establish a reliable visa program and ensure the American Dream is possible to everyone who follows the law and is willing to work hard.’
The end of Title 42 has frequently drawn bipartisan concern about the potential for a massive surge at the border once it ends as migrants believe they have a better chance of entering the U.S. The administration has shared those concerns, with officials previously predicting up to 14,000 migrant encounters a day once the order ends.
The Department of Homeland Security has been putting measures in place that it believes will promote a more orderly process at the border — including expanding legal pathways, greater cooperation with Mexico on deportations and stiffening penalties for illegal entry. It has also proposed a rule that would, in theory, bar migrants from asylum eligibility if they enter illegally and have also failed to claim asylum at a country through which they have already passed.
The administration also announced this week that it is sending 1,500 troops to the border, although officials have said they won’t be engaging with migrants but acting in a supporting role to Customs and Border Protection.
The moves have done little to allay fears of a new surge, with numbers already increasing at the border this week. A group of Senate Republicans wrote to President Biden on Wednesday to urge him to reverse his decision about ending the order. But there is currently no sign that the order will not expire next week.
Tillis told Fox News that he doesn’t expect his legislation to be passed and on the president’s desk by the time the order ends.
‘If you just look at the way it’s going to play out, is this bill going to get out of the Senate, go to the House and go to the President’s desk before next Thursday? No,’ he said. ‘Is there going to be a growing sense that, if the President’s not going to put any other option on the table, that it’s going to be unsustainable, unsafe and politically unwise? Yes. So, we’ll start having those discussions in the next couple of weeks.’