DEL RIO, Texas—As the Biden administration prepares to drop the Title 42 public health provision on May 23, Border Patrol agents and local officials along the border are bracing for an even greater influx of illegal immigrants.
“They’re preparing for us to start apprehending over 500,000 a month,” a Border Patrol agent, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of repercussions, told The Epoch Times on April 4.
He said agents are expecting to be issued an electronic device into which they can input an illegal alien’s data and biographic information while in the field, before releasing them.
“So really what Border Patrol is now becoming is essentially just a greeter.”
Title 42 is a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) order that was invoked in March 2020 under President Donald Trump to minimize the spread of COVID-19 by ensuring that only essential travel occurred at U.S. borders.
It directed that illegal immigrants could be quickly expelled back into Mexico as a pandemic precaution, rather than be processed under Title 8 immigration law, which is a much more protracted process inside the United States.
Since March 2020, more than 1.7 million illegal immigrants have been expelled under the Title 42 authority, according to Customs and Border Protection (CBP) data. During the same period, just over 1.1 million were placed into Title 8 proceedings.
Since February 2021, however, Title 42 has slowly been whittled down—first to allow in all unaccompanied children, then families with children under the age of 7, then, most families in general, most single females, and then, single adults from non-Spanish-speaking countries.
In February 2021, 73 percent of illegal immigrants were expelled under Title 42. By February 2022, it had been reduced to 55 percent.
“We’re already releasing most [illegal aliens]—even single males—from anywhere in the world,” the Border Patrol agent said.
Title 42 was never designed to be central border security or immigration policy, but as the Biden administration removed other border security measures, it became more significant.
“As a result of the CDC’s termination of its Title 42 public health order, we will likely face an increase in encounters above the current high levels,” CBP Commissioner Chris Magnus said in a statement on April 4.
“There are a significant number of individuals who were unable to access the asylum system for the past two years, and who may decide that now is the time to come.”
In the past six months, 1 million illegal immigrants from 157 countries have been apprehended at the southern border, according to Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz.
During March, Border Patrol agents apprehended an average of about 7,000 illegal immigrants per day, according to preliminary CBP numbers obtained by The Epoch Times. An additional nearly 67,000 were detected by Border Patrol, but not apprehended.
In 2019, when Border Patrol agents were apprehending upward of 4,000 illegal immigrants per day, Obama-era Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said the country was “truly in a crisis.”
Johnson said at the time that when daily apprehensions surge to more than 1,000 people, it “overwhelms the system.”
Pressure to End Title 42
The Biden administration has long been under pressure from special interest and advocacy groups to rescind Title 42.
In August 2021, several groups sued the administration to get the policy revoked, including the American Civil Liberties Union, Texas Civil Rights Project, RAICES, Center for Gender & Refugee Studies, and Oxfam.
“We took the government to court over Title 42 because the lives of children, entire families, and extremely vulnerable people are on the line,” said Karla Marisol Vargas, senior attorney for Texas Civil Rights Project, in a statement at the time.
“It’s beyond cruel to use an obscure public health rule to turn away families seeking safety without due process and functionally shut down our asylum system—it’s illegal.”
Later the same day, the CDC issued a statement saying Title 42 was staying, but would be reviewed every 60 days.
“Introduction of such non-citizens, regardless of their country of origin, migrating through Canada and Mexico into the United States creates a serious danger of the introduction of COVID-19 into the United States,” the CDC stated.
“The danger is so increased by the introduction of such non-citizens that a temporary suspension is necessary to protect the public health.”
Foreign visa-holders who enter through land ports of entry at the southern border are required to present proof of a COVID-19 vaccination. However, illegal immigrants are exempt from this requirement.
When asked why the vaccination isn’t required of illegal border crossers, including for the thousands of Haitians who congregated under an international bridge in Del Rio in September 2021, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said: “They’re not intending to stay here for a lengthy period of time. I don’t think it’s the same thing.”
‘Total and Utter Chaos’
Don McLaughlin, the mayor of Uvalde, which sits 70 miles off the south Texas border and has been beleaguered by high-speed smuggling chases through town, said the end of Title 42 spells disaster.
“I think you’re going to see total and utter chaos,” he told The Epoch Times.
“It’s going to be screwed up from day one, and it’s going to stay screwed up. This will tip the iceberg,” he said, explaining that the result will likely be violence, as illegal immigrants make more demands on border residents, including breaking into their homes and destroying property.
“In my opinion, the Border Patrol should be sending everybody back across the border.
“And if you come, let’s apply the rule of law. Let’s go back to what true asylum is—because if you don’t like your country because it’s poor, or you don’t like the school system or education system in your country, I’m sorry, but that’s not grounds for asylum.”
In general, close to 90 percent of illegal aliens who claim credible fear at the border pass the initial screening and are placed into asylum proceedings. Of those who then formally apply for asylum and attend their court hearings, about 15 percent are ultimately granted asylum.
While three states filed a lawsuit on April 4 to keep Title 42 in place, activist groups celebrated its termination.
The attorneys general of Missouri, Louisiana, and Arizona sued the government, saying the revocation of Title 42 is “unlawful” and will lead to an influx at the border.
Alternatively, Maryland-based activist group CASA in Action is commending the end of Title 42.
“Title 42 has served as an excuse to expel Black and brown immigrants for too long, and it must end immediately,” Gustavo Torres, CASA executive director, wrote in an April 1 email statement.