WASHINGTON – Biden administration officials fear lifting of Covid-19 restrictions preventing undocumented immigrants from entering the United States from Mexico could trigger an increase in migration that could overwhelm the system, two say US officials familiar with internal discussions on the matter.
The public health order banning border migration, known as Title 42, has deported nearly a million immigrants attempting to cross the southern border to Mexico since it was put in place by the Trump administration in March. 2020.
The Biden administration lifted the restriction on children arriving without parents and had internally planned to allow all parents and children traveling together to enter the United States to have their immigration cases heard by the end. July, with single adults to follow in the coming months. But as of this week, the July 31 deadline has been “evolving,” three sources told NBC News.
The increase in Covid-19 cases in the United States caused by the Delta variant is one of the factors leading the White House to rethink its plan. But, according to the two US officials, the administration is also concerned about funding, facilities and manpower issues related to the lifting of the restrictions.
Already, the number of undocumented immigrants encountered by customs and border protection in June exceeded 188,000, a record in 21 years. This number includes over 104,000 immigrants who were deported under Title 42.
Officials say there are fears that if more immigrants are allowed into the United States to have their cases heard in immigration court, others will try to make the trip, overwhelming the system. This system, made up of several agencies, apprehends, treats and briefly detains undocumented immigrants, monitors their whereabouts, adjudicates their requests and may possibly deport them.
“They assume a ton of people would want to cross the border,” an official said.
“If they lift it just for families, we could see an increase in the number of families,” another official said. “If they wiped it out completely, we could rush to the border. It would be catastrophic. “
Customs and border protection have so far not received any guidance on how to prepare for the end of Title 42, officials said.
Immigrant advocacy groups have criticized the Biden administration for keeping Title 42 in place, alleging it is not being used to control the pandemic but to stop immigrants at the border who they believe deserve a chance fair to seek asylum under US and international law.
“President Biden has said time and again that his administration will be guided by science, but medical experts have consistently rejected the idea that Title 42 is necessary to protect public health,” said Noah Gottschalk, head of policy Oxfam America Global. “Vaccines are readily available and effective against newer variants of COVID. The country is opening again, our borders should also be open to asylum seekers. “
The Biden administration has been sued by immigration groups for its use of Title 42 to prevent families from entering the country to seek asylum.
Spokesmen for Customs and Border Protection and the Department of Homeland Security did not respond to a request for comment.
On Tuesday, a White House official said the administration was unable to commit to when the policy might end.
“As we have already said, Title 42 is a public health authority, and this authority belongs to the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention]”The official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.” We will continue to defer to public health experts on these decisions and we have no timeline to preview specific plans when Title 42 does. is no longer needed. “