U.S. Rep. Jared Golden (ME-2) and a bipartisan group in Congress have introduced a plan that will restore the authority of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials to deny entry to migrants at the southern border, similar to the now-suspended authority previously granted to them under Title 42.
The bill would give the Biden Administration temporary expulsion authority for migrants who come to the United States illegally.
Whether the Biden Administration would use that authority is an open question.
Golden’s office said in a press release this two-year authority is intended to manage the anticipated surge of migrants at the southern border following the expiration of Title 42.
The other lawmakers in the group are a mix of Republicans and Democrats, including Reps. Juan Ciscomani (AZ-06), Don Davis (NC-01), Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-01), David Valadao (CA-22), Wiley Nickel (NC-13), and Zach Nunn (IA-03).
Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ) and Thom Tillis (R-NC) introduced similar bipartisan legislation in the Senate earlier this month.
“The situation at our border is already a dangerous crisis, and ending Title 42 without resources and a workable strategy in place will only make it worse,” said Rep. Golden.
“This bill arms the Administration with the authority to address this crisis,” he said.
Title 42, a provision of the Public Health Service Act of 1944, was invoked by the Trump Administration in March 2020 to prevent the spread of COVID-19. It denied migrants seeking asylum the ability to remain in the country while their cases were processed for public health reasons.
The policy is broadly credited with cutting down on the number of illegal entries into the U.S., even as the number of border crossers encountered by CBP has surged in recent years.
According to CBP data, border agents encountered nearly 200,000 individuals attempt to cross the southern border illegally in March alone.
Yet, owing in large part to its association with Trump Era immigration policies, Title 42 became a target for open borders advocates.
The left-wing American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), for example, has called on the Biden White House to end enforcement of Title 42, describing the policy as “Trump’s Illegal and Inhumane Immigration Policy”.
The policy is better known as the “Remain In Mexico” policy.
The Biden Administration has continued this policy but announced this month it would be rolled back as the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency ends.
Golden’s bill aims to give the Biden Administration temporary expulsion authority without a tie to public health. It exempts migrants from expulsion if they risk persecution or torture due to their membership in a social, political, or religious group. Border agents may also exempt other migrants on a case-by-case basis for humanitarian or urgent medical reasons.
Though far from the U.S.-Mexico border, Maine has been ground zero for America’s open border and poor immigration controls, with thousands of migrants and asylum seekers entering the state in the last four years.
In recent months, the city of Portland has said it has no more capacity to take in migrants.
The Portland Expo building is currently operating as a makeshift refugee camp for hundreds of migrants, and Portland’s streets are littered with semi-permanent homeless encampments.
Municipal officials elsewhere have similarly said school and General Assistance budgets have been stretched to the breaking point.
Last week, the city of Sanford was unexpectedly inundated with more than 100 migrants. In a short period of time, the city exceeded its General Assistance welfare budget by more than 300 percent to accommodate the migrants.
City officials there fear the suspension of Title 42 will only increase the influx of migrants who arrive in Maine’s cities and towns in search of housing, benefits, and economic opportunity.
It’s unclear whether the Biden Administration is open to backing a renewed and retooled Title 42.
In March, the Biden Administration submitted a memo to Portland officials instructing them on how to prepare for the arrival of busloads of migrants transported from the southern border to Maine.