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A group of Texas congressional lawmakers is urging the Biden administration to keep a Trump-era health policy that allows authorities to turn away migrants to prevent the spread of COVID-19 until illegal crossings at the southern border are brought down to manageable levels.
In a letter dated Tuesday to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, a group of 22 mostly Republican lawmakers said scraping Title 42 would overwhelm border facilities and local communities.
The order, imposed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in March 2020, allows U.S. Border Patrol and Customs and Border Protection to block migrants who pose a health risk. At the time, the Trump administration said the order was necessary to control the spread of COVID-19 in border facilities.
DHS PUTS OUT CALL FOR EMPLOYEES TO VOLUNTEER AT SOUTHERN BORDER AMID ‘LARGE NUMBERS’ OF MIGRANTS
“South Texas mayors inform us that the local non-governmental organizations are completely at capacity in terms of lodging and other services, and that local transportation hubs have been overwhelmed with migrants, many of whom lack the financial means to purchase tickets,” the letter reads. “If the CDC were to rescind its Title 42 order at this time, Border Patrol facilities and local communities would be forced to absorb at least double the current number of migrants, likely with catastrophic results.”
“We understand that this legal authority is temporary and tied to the COVID-19 public health emergency, but DHS appears unprepared to handle a likely unprecedented increase in apprehensions along the southwest border,” the letter continued.
Since March 2020, the U.S. has used a public health order aimed at limiting the spread of COVID-19 to expel migrants more than 1.7 million times without a chance to seek asylum.
The CDC, the agency which invoked the policy, is evaluating the measure, which is slated to expire Wednesday.
Critics say the policy is not being used to prevent more COVID-19 cases in the U.S. but to keep migrants from entering by denying them the chance to seek asylum.
The Biden administration is under pressure from some fellow Democrats and activists to end the order at a time when migrant encounters are outpacing last fiscal year’s numbers.
“Probably in the next two or three days we’ll get over a million encounters or apprehensions along the southwest border,” Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz said at a border security conference in San Antonio, Texas.
In the entirety of FY 2021, there were over 1.7 million migrant encounters, with the majority coming in the second half of the fiscal year as encounters hit a monthly high of 213,000 in July. Ortiz said about 7,000 people are being stopped at the U.S-Mexico border daily.
At the same time, Biden wants to signal that the U.S. is emerging from the pandemic while also trying to avoid a surge of asylum seekers at the border.
In a March 10 letter signed to Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, numerous immigration advocacy groups claim migrants deported under Title 42 have been subjected to violence and persecution in their home countries.
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“This policy has never been about public health: your administration is using Title 42 to single out and block people requesting protection in the United States at the same time as it has lifted travel restrictions for other travelers,” the letter said.
Fox News’ Adam Shaw and The Associated Press contributed to this report.