As Title 42 is set to expire at 11:59 p.m. ET Thursday, security officials are bracing for what could be an unprecedented influx of migrants seeking asylum along the southern border.
The COVID-era public health emergency measure allowed for the quick expulsion of migrants at the border and nearly halted the processing of asylum applications for more than three years.
Once Title 42 is lifted, the tens of thousands of people who have been waiting in Mexico after fleeing from violence, poverty and political instability will be subject to decades-old immigration protocols known as Title 8.
Under those laws, individuals can no longer be turned away or deported without a screening for asylum claims. That means they’ll enter the country and be placed in detention centers as they go through a process called expedited removal, which includes a credible fear interview. Those who are deemed to have valid claims will be allowed to stay in the country as their cases make their way through immigration court. Those who are not will be deported.
Regardless of the outcome, the longer processing times will result in a bottleneck at ports of entry and detention centers that will put a strain on federal, state and local government resources.
The return of Title 8
The return of Title 8 may be a welcome lifeline for thousands of migrants who have been stuck in overcrowded shelters or have been living on the streets of Mexican border cities, often prey to violence and exploitation.
But the longstanding protocols also carry stiffer penalties for migrants who are caught crossing the border illegally, including the possibility of a five-year ban on entry to the U.S. for migrants who are deported, as well as prosecution.
On Wednesday, the Biden administration finalized a new rule that severely limits asylum for those who arrive at the U.S.-Mexico border without first applying online or seeking protection in a country they passed through. (The rule was first announced in February and is likely to face legal challenges.)
That new rule is part of the Department of Homeland Security’s efforts to assuage fears that mayhem may break out at the country’s ports of entry as Title 42 sunsets. It also concedes that the recent spike in new arrivals is already putting a strain on U.S. immigration resources.
“Our plan will deliver results. But it will take time to be fully realized,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said on Wednesday.
The Biden administration rolls out new measures
Mayorkas said the new rule is part of a broader effort by the administration to discourage migrants from crossing the border illegally and create a host of new legal pathways.