Fearing ‘Harm’ From Migrants, 15 States Seek To Maintain Title 42

Those who are familiar with the situation at the southern border fear that even a ruling in favor of the appeal would be ‘moot.’

Joel Martinez/the Monitor via AP, file
Governor Abbott during a news conference in March. Joel Martinez/the Monitor via AP, file

Fifteen states are asking a Washington federal judge to keep in place a Trump-era immigration policy that allowed asylum seekers at America’s southern border to be expelled. By now, however, those who are familiar with the situation at the border fear that even a ruling in favor of the appeal would be “moot.”

Earlier, Judge Emmet Sullivan ruled that the policy, known as Title 42, would be lifted on December 21. In their new filing, the 15 Republican attorneys general are arguing that the overflow of migrants might “directly harm” their states. An increase of migrants at the border “will impose financial burdens on the states involuntarily hosting them,” they claim. 

“The states have sovereign and quasi-sovereign interests in controlling their borders, limiting the persons present within those borders, excluding persons carrying communicable diseases, and the enforcement of immigration law,” the filing, issued Monday, said.

Last week at Washington, Judge Sullivan ordered President Biden to lift Title 42, calling the policy “arbitrary and capricious.” Hours after the order was issued, the Department of Justice requested a five-week hold on the ruling to give it time to prepare for the transition. 

A retired Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent who now advocates for border control and frequents different parts of the southern border, Victor Avila, says the request is almost a “moot point” because Title 42 has been enforced only intermittently during the last two years. 

Undocumented immigrants crossing the border are allowed in America under Mr. Biden’s “catch and release policy,” under which immigrants are released by the Department of Homeland Security pending their court proceedings, Mr. Avila told the Sun. 

Title 42 was enacted in 2020 at the height of the Covid pandemic. The Trump administration tried to shut down the border to stop the spread of the disease. Mr. Biden maintained the policy even as the pandemic had eased across America. 

Now, with Border Patrol agents encountering record numbers of migrants crossing the border, the states are saying Mr. Biden is “surrendering” the battle to maintain Title 42. Federal officials, they argue, have “essentially abandoned their defense” of the policy, and “it is doubtful that they will make any further arguments in support of it.”

The case was filed by the Republican attorneys general of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

After Judge Sullivan’s ruling was announced last week, Texas’s governor, Greg Abbot, said he would  invoke an “invasion” clause of the American and Texas constitutions to combat illegal immigration through his state. In a letter sent to Texas county judges, Mr. Abbot said that Mr. Biden “has abandoned his responsibility to enforce immigration laws.”

One of the main concerns regarding lifting Title 42 is the expected increase of human and drug trafficking. The Biden administration, according to Mr. Avila, has not provided the Border Patrol with any assistance in combating this problem, despite the dangers they face every day on the border. “People don’t realize how dangerous it is — it’s not just the Mexican side of the border,” Mr. Avila said. 

Rapes, assaults, and drownings are some of the situations that undocumented immigrants have to face on the American side of the border, Mr. Avila says. According to internal Border Patrol data obtained by CBS News, at least 852 migrants died at the American-Mexican border during the 2022 fiscal year, the deadliest year on record. 

Since Title 42 was enacted, the Border Patrol has expelled 2.4 million migrants attempting to enter the country. Judge Sullivan’s order to lift the policy comes at a time when agents are experiencing the largest number of border encounters in history. 

On Tuesday, the House Republican leader, Kevin McCarthy, called on the homeland security secretary, Alejandro Mayorkas, to resign for what Mr. McCarthy called his failed management of the border crisis. If Mr. Myorkas stays on, Mr. McCarthy threatened that the House would “investigate every order, every action and every failure to determine whether we can begin an impeachment inquiry.”

The New York Sun

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