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US lifting pandemic border expulsion policy in May

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The United States announced Friday it was lifting a public health order imposed because of the Covid-19 pandemic that required the immediate expulsion of migrants arriving at the southern border.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s so-called Title 42 public health order would be lifted next month.

Republican lawmakers condemned the move, arguing that it will lead to a surge in arrivals, but it was welcomed by migrant advocates.

“Title 42 remains in place until May 23 and, until then, DHS will continue to expel single adults and families encountered at the Southwest border,” Mayorkas said in a statement.

Title 42, which was put in place in March 2020 by former president Donald Trump, required the expulsion of unauthorized single adults and family units arriving at US land borders — not letting them apply for asylum — to protect against the spread of Covid-19.

“After considering current public health conditions and an increased availability of tools to fight Covid-19… the CDC Director has determined that an Order suspending the right to introduce migrants into the United States is no longer necessary,” the CDC said.

Mayorkas said more border agents were being deployed to “process new arrivals, evaluate asylum requests, and quickly remove those who do not qualify for protection.”

“We will increase personnel and resources as needed and have already redeployed more than 600 law enforcement officers to the border,” he said.

Migrant advocates had argued that Title 42 was becoming outdated as the pandemic eased and an affront to international conventions allowing people to claim asylum.

With the lifting of Title 42, “DHS will process individuals encountered at the border pursuant to Title 8, which is the standard procedure we use to place individuals in removal proceedings,” Mayorkas said.

“Nonetheless, we know that smugglers will spread misinformation to take advantage of vulnerable migrants,” he said.

“Let me be clear: those unable to establish a legal basis to remain in the United States will be removed.”

Crossings from Mexico have been surging in recent weeks and Republican lawmakers have warned of a “humanitarian disaster.”

– ‘Frightening decision’ –

“The border crisis is about to get a whole lot worse,” House Republicans tweeted after the announcement of the termination of Title 42.

“Worst domestic news today: the Biden Administration will admit double or more the number of ‘undocumented’ immigrants at the border,” said Republican Senator Mitt Romney.

“Best GOP political news today: the same as above. (Arizona, Nevada, and more Dem senators will lose their elections).”

Border guards expelled illegal migrants 1.7 million times in the last fiscal year — the highest number ever recorded and four times the number of expulsions posted in Trump’s last year in the White House, when numbers were down in part because of the pandemic.

President Joe Biden’s own Democratic Party has been divided over plans to loosen restrictions at the border.

Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia called the move a “frightening decision.”

“Title 42 has been an essential tool in combatting the spread of Covid-19 and controlling the influx of migrants at our southern border,” Manchin said.

The lifting of Title 42 was welcomed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

“The new order is a huge step forward in the fight to ensure that people fleeing violence and persecution will once again be able to seek safety in this country, as our laws require,” said Jonathan Blazer, director of border strategies at the ACLU.

“Title 42 has been misused for over two years to illegally shut down asylum at the southern border and send thousands of people directly back into harm’s way,” Blazer said.

According to advocacy organization Human Rights First, Title 42 expulsions had led to nearly 10,000 reports of kidnap, torture, rape and other violent attacks against people blocked in or sent back to Mexico.

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Agence France-Presse (AFP) is a French international news agency headquartered in Paris, France. Founded in 1835 as Havas, it is the world's oldest news agency.

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