White House warns migrants border 'not open' with lifting of Title 42

Migrants hoping to be allowed to immigrate to the United States more easily after the expiration of the Title 42 order wait along the southern border in Tijuana, Mexico, on Thursday. Photo by Carlos Moreno/UPI
1 of 11 | Migrants hoping to be allowed to immigrate to the United States more easily after the expiration of the Title 42 order wait along the southern border in Tijuana, Mexico, on Thursday. Photo by Carlos Moreno/UPI | License Photo

May 11 (UPI) -- The end of pandemic-era rules allowing U.S. officials to quickly expel migrants does not mean the southern U.S. border is "open," Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas warned Thursday.

Speaking at a White House press briefing on the eve of the expiration of Title 42, Mayorkas declared that, although the strict emergency health measures are disappearing at 11:59 p.m. Thursday, a new set of rules under Title 8 of the United States legal code will actually make it "tougher" to illegally gain entry to the country.


"The transition to Title 8 processing will be swift and immediate," he said. "Our borders are not open. People who cross our border unlawfully and without a legal basis to remain will be promptly processed and removed."

Title 42 allows the quick expulsion of migrants but is set to end Thursday alongside the U.S. COVID-19 public health emergency, leaving each level of U.S. government searching for solutions to deal with a potential influx at the southern border.


The measure was enacted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention under former President Donald Trump to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 by allowing for "suspension of the right to introduce and prohibition of the introduction of persons into the United States from designated foreign countries or places for public health purposes."

It was used by Trump to bar or quickly remove migrants seeking asylum on public health grounds during the pandemic. No chance was given them to file claims seeking asylum on political or human rights grounds.

While President Joe Biden attempted to end the policy, the U.S. Supreme Court left it in place. But the legal end of the COVID-19 pandemic emergency means Title 42 can no longer be implemented.

The White House claims the new Title 8 program is a tougher and more effective deterrent than previous border rules and is designed to cut down on repeat offenders. Under its provisions, migrants who are removed are subject to at least a five-year ban on reentry into the United States and can face criminal prosecution if they attempt to cross again.

The imminent lifting Title 42 restrictions has prompted a rush of migrants, and officials are bracing for as many as 10,000 border crossings each day as it expires.


Mayorkas told reporters Thursday the agency is prepared for a massive influx of migrants at the border.

"We have surged 24,000 Border Patrol agents and officers, thousands of troops, contractors, and over a thousand asylum officers and judges to see this through," he said. "We are clear-eyed about the challenges we are likely to face in the days and weeks ahead, and we are ready to meet them."

Border officials are "already seeing high numbers of encounters in certain sectors," Mayorkas said, adding, "We prepared for this moment for almost two years, and our plan will deliver results. It will take time for those results to be fully realized."

He blamed human smugglers for "spreading false information that the border will be open. They are lying."

Federal government enforcement

His comments echoed similar warnings issued Wednesday aimed at convincing would-be migrants they are being deceived by criminal smugglers.

"To people who are thinking of making the journey to our southern border, know this: Smugglers care only about profit, not people. They do not care about you or your well-being. Do not believe their lies. Do not risk your life and your life savings only to be removed from the United States if and when you arrive here."


He emphasized the five-year ban and possible criminal prosecution now available to U.S. officials under Title 8.

The Biden administration also finalized a rule allowing the United States to presume migrants attempting to enter the country are ineligible for asylum if they do not use lawful pathways of entry.

Under the rule, migrants who do not receive authorization to enter the United States or don't schedule the time and place of their arrival through the Customs and Border Protection One smartphone application will be barred from entering the country.

More than 300 civil, human and immigrant rights groups urged Biden not to implement the rule when it was first announced in January.

Earlier this month, the administration also announced it would send 1,500 additional troops to the southern border to assist with transportation, administrative duties, narcotics detection, data entry and warehouse support in anticipation of the end of Title 42.

Pentagon spokesman Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said at the time that the troops will not perform law-enforcement work but instead "will fill critical capability gaps."

States' mixed approach

States along the southern border are also preparing their own response to the potential migrant influx.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, announced he would deploy 450 National Guard troops to the border in a Texas Tactical Border Force to "help intercept and repel large groups of migrants trying to enter Texas illegally."


El Paso, Texas, Mayor Oscar Leeser has declared a state of emergency, while Brownsville Mayor Trey Mendez told UPI his city has faith the federal efforts will help stem an influx of migrants.

"We don't yet know whether the lifting of Title 42 will result in higher numbers, but I believe that Title 8 will provide valuable legal assistance to the men and women on the ground to enforce our laws," Mendez said. "We have had great communication with CBP, DHS and Secretary Mayorkas and they have been extremely supportive."

Mendez added Brownsville has been on the front lines of the immigration issue for decades and has built "a model system that prioritizes efficiency in the processing of migrants, knowing that we are the front door to the rest of the country."

"We are as prepared as we can be for the lifting of Title 42 and anticipate that some of the policies being put forth by the administration, including regional processing centers, as well as tougher consequences for those crossing illegally, will help keep the flow to manageable levels," he said.

Mendez said he will continue to advocate for comprehensive immigration reform that will allow those seeking asylum to legally do so, "while at the same time enforcing our laws to ensure a safe and orderly migration system."


Neither California nor Arizona have joined Texas in deploying the National Guard.

Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs on Monday introduced a five-point plan that aims to ensure migrants are safely transported and provided emergency shelter upon arriving at the border. She would use executive action to activate state resources to respond to an influx of arrivals if necessary.

The preparations have also extended to states in the northern United States, which have seen Republican-led southern states such as Texas and Florida bus migrants to areas led by Democrats.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot issued an emergency declaration, citing 8,000 new arrivals since 2022, as Abbott has continued to send migrants arriving in Texas to the city.

Congress divided

Mayorkas on Wednesday said Congress has failed to fix a broken immigration system and provide Homeland Security with the resources to address the problems at the border.

He said the current situation is the "consequence of Congress leaving a broken, outdated immigration system in place for over two decades, despite unanimous agreement that we desperately need legislative reform."

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., has introduced the Secure the Border Act of 2023, which aims to force the Biden administration to restart construction of a physical barrier on the southern border, increase the presence of Border Patrol agents and provide them with bonus pay, strengthen laws protecting unaccompanied children from human trafficking and require DHS to provide transparency on the number of illegal border crossings.


In a speech on the House floor Wednesday, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., called on his fellow lawmakers to approve the bill and "vote yes on security over chaos."

"If it passes, I am confident that we will stop the flood of fentanyl into our country, solve the Biden border crisis and support our Border Patrol agents so they can continue to keep us safe," he said.

The bill passed by a 219-213 vote with two Republicans voting against it, NBC News reports. McCarthy celebrated its passage, calling it the "strongest border security bill this country has ever seen."

House Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., also acknowledged the need for Congress to act.

"We do have a broken immigration system here in the United States of America and it does require a thoughtful and comprehensive solution, an approach that is anchored in our values as a country," he said at a Wednesday press conference.

Rep. Linda Sanchez, D-Calif., the daughter of Mexican immigrants, introduced the Citizenship Act of 2023 on Wednesday as a counter to the Republican bill, which she said embraces "the same failed, xenophobic immigration policies that we've seen from Republicans time and time again."


Her bill would create a roadmap to citizenship for recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, migrants with temporary protected status and some farmworkers, increase funding for immigrant integration initiatives and eliminate a one year-deadline for filing asylum claims, while raising some visa caps.

Cornell University Professor Stephen W. Yale-Loehr, an immigration expert, told UPI the sharply divided Congress is unlikely to pass legislation on comprehensive immigration reform in time to prevent "chaos at the border" in the short term.

"Too many people will want to enter and there won't be enough Border Patrol agents to prevent a surge of illegal entries."

But in his view, a just, comprehensive immigration reform would include more work visas, "so that people who want to work temporarily in the U.S. could enter legally rather than illegally."

He also believes that the estimated 10 million people in the United States who are here illegally should be legalized "so that they can come out of the shadows."

And, he said, effective border security must be realized.

"It is like three legs of a stool: All three legs are necessary for effective reform," he said.

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