While the controversial Title 42 border expulsions were designed as health policy, not immigration policy, it dominated how the U.S. treated border crossings starting in March 2020. That will all change soon.
When Did Title 42 Start?
Title 42 is not a new policy. In fact, it dates back to a World War 2-era law called the Public Health Service Act of 1944. This law empowered the public health agency to create programs that stopped the spread of communicable diseases, like malaria and cholera. A section of the law, referred to as Title 42, enabled Customs and Border Protection to deny people entrance to the U.S. if there is a “serious danger” they might spread a communicable disease, according to an explainer by Immigration Forum.
What is Title 42?
By invoking Title 42, the U.S. immediately expelled migrants without allowing them to apply for asylum, as is their legal right. As a pandemic policy, Title 42 did not block U.S. citizens, visa holders or other people crossing the border from Mexico or Canada.
Since the start of the pandemic, the U.S. has expelled migrants 2.8 million times under Title 42. These people were sent back to their home countries or Mexico, where they languished in dangerous border camps. There have been more than 13,000 incidents of rape, kidnapping, and other acts of violence committed against migrants expelled to Mexico between March 2020 and December 2022.
Title 42 Expiration Date and What’s Next
The U.S. will officially end the COVID-19 public health emergency on May 11, 2023. With the emergency suspended, Title 42’s reign is expected to also end. Immigration policies will revert to Title 8 of the Immigration and Nationality Act, which has been in place for decades before the pandemic, AZ Central explains.
Under Title 8, immigration authorities have to conduct a credible fear interview with asylum seekers to judge if they are in enough danger to need legal protection from the U.S. If they pass the test, they begin the long process to claiming asylum in the U.S. and presenting their case before an immigration judge. There are 2 million pending cases in the U.S. immigration court system, according to TRAC Reports.