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Memo: Biden Could End COVID-Era Deportation Policy

Title 42 was used to deport thousands deemed likely to spread COVID

A masked transport officer searches a masked immigrant in April 2021 / Getty Images
• February 15, 2022 4:59 am

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President Joe Biden may end as early as this spring a pandemic-era tool that has led to the deportation of hundreds of thousands of migrants, even as southern border crossings show little signs of slowing down in the new year.

A memo obtained by the Washington Free Beacon instructs senior Department of Homeland Security officials to prepare for the possibility of Title 42's repeal by April 1. Title 42 is a federal provision that allows the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to order the deportation of immigrants who may carry "a serious danger of introduction of [a communicable disease]"—it has been responsible for the immediate deportation of over 900,000 migrants since Biden took office.

The preparation for the repeal of Title 42 comes as governors and mayors around the United States begin loosening COVID-19 restrictions, including mask and vaccine mandates. Left-wing activist groups, such as the American Civil Liberties Union, have called on Biden to end the program, calling it inhumane and a violation of international law. Immigration hawks, however, call Title 42 a critical tool for discouraging migration.

When asked about the potential of the policy's repeal in April, a DHS spokesman did not deny the possibility and said the agency defers to "public health experts on decisions related to" the policy.

"The Department of Homeland Security continues to process individuals in accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) Title 42 Order. As part of the United States' COVID-19 mitigation efforts, DHS continues to expel single adults and families encountered at the Southwest border," a spokesman told the Free Beacon in a statement.

Border Patrol and other immigration-related law enforcement agents arrested more than 75,000 migrants at the southern border in January, an increase of 6 percent from December.

Critics of the Biden administration, as well as current and former DHS and Customs and Border Protection officials, have said that Biden's exemptions to Title 42—which include children, most family units, and any migrants who say they fear persecution in their home country—have already rendered useless much of the policy's effectiveness in discouraging migration to the southern border.

"We were already letting in tens of thousands of single men anyway," one senior DHS official told the Free Beacon on the condition of anonymity, referring to the high number of Title 42 exemptions granted by DHS. "So it's nice that the Biden administration is making ‘open borders' official."

The official said discussions about the end of the policy have been circulating within the agency for months. The agency also announced that its staff would be expected to begin working in-person at the end of March, according to the official.

DHS secretary Alejandro Mayorkas first called for ending Title 42 in a memo last summer, saying the tool is unnecessary to control the spread of COVID-19. The CDC extended the use of Title 42 earlier this month, arguing that the "surge in cases and hospitalizations since December due to the highly transmissible Omicron variant" necessitated the continuation of the policy.

Border Patrol arrested roughly 1.6 million migrants in the 2021 fiscal year, more than any year on record. Migrant encounters totaled more than 2 million.