Biden administration ends controversial Trump-era immigration rule

The Biden administration announced Friday that it will be phasing out what's known as Title 42, a policy that prevented migrants from seeking asylum in the U.S. due to public health concerns amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Washington Post immigration reporter Nick Miroff joins Amna Nawaz to discuss.

Read the Full Transcript

  • Judy Woodruff:

    The Biden administration has decided to end a controversial immigration policy implemented by the Trump administration.

    Amna Nawaz has the details.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    The Biden administration announced today it will be phasing out what's known as Title 42. That's a policy that prevented migrants from seeking asylum in the U.S. due to public health concerns amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Now, the administration has been under mounting pressure from Democrats and immigrant advocates to end Title 42. The policy will officially come to an end on May 23. But there are concerns this could overwhelm a Southern border system already seeing record high crossings.

    I'm joined by Washington post's immigration reporter Nick Miroff to discuss this more.

    Nick, welcome back to the "NewsHour."

    You have been following this story. The president's been under a lot of pressure to end that program that began under the Trump administration. What do we know about why they decided on May 23?

  • Nick Miroff, The Washington Post:

    Well, it's the convergence of a couple of factors.

    I mean, as you point out, the White House has been under a lot of pressure. On top of that, they have been paring back other pandemic-related restrictions, so, therefore, making it increasingly difficult to justify these types of restrictions on asylum at the southern border.

    And by setting a May 23 date, which is almost two months from now, it's nearly the same as another 60-day extension. It gives them time to get extra capacity in place, if those border numbers go much higher, to get extra personnel to the border, in anticipation of more pressures down there.

    And then it also buys them, I think, time to see what happens with the BA.2 variant. A lot can happen in the next seven weeks. And I would add one more factor, which is that I think we're likely to see this in federal court, as states perhaps like Texas try to try to block this and force the government to change that calendar.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    So, Nick, we should remind people this is a CDC decision to end Title 42. The administration stresses that over and over.

    And as it remains in place, there have been exceptions. Under the Biden administration,we know all unaccompanied children have been allowed in, many families, adults with young children. So it's really single adults they have been immediately expelling at the border under Title 42.

    So when it's lifted, what changes? What are authorities preparing for?

  • Nick Miroff:

    They're preparing for numbers to go significantly higher and place additional strains on what is already a very overtaxed border enforcement infrastructure. They have seen record numbers of people being taken into custody last year and again this year. We're on pace to exceed last year's totals.

    So, you asked about single adults. You're right. The Title 42 expulsion policy has only been applied in recent months to about a quarter of the family groups that are crossing, but it still has been applied to the majority of the single adults that CBP takes into custody.

    I think we can expect they will begin to phase out the Title 42 policy as their ability to process people under normal immigration proceedings ramps up by adding more agents, by adding more infrastructure and by adding more immigration judges to hear asylum claims.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    So, Nick, you mentioned they're expecting significantly higher numbers. What are they expecting? And can the system handle it?

  • Nick Miroff:

    DHS officials held a briefing for reporters this week and told us that they're anticipating as many as 18,000 people crossing per day. That is their worst-case scenario.

    But that would be more than double than the roughly 7,000 that they are taking into custody now. At that levels, at the current existing levels, they're already overwhelmed in several Border Patrol sectors. So, if they were to go to some of those — to some of those projections, they would once more be in a situation where they would be forced to quickly release many of the people that are coming across the border, simply because they don't have anywhere to hold them.

    They can't process them fast enough. And they certainly can't return them to their home countries quickly enough.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Nick, in the minute or so we have left, what about the politics of all this?

    We know immigration is a hot-button political issue. We have already seen Republicans come out and speak about this. Do we expect to hear more about this, especially leading up to the midterms?

  • Nick Miroff:

    You can definitely expect we will hear a lot about this. This is going to become the subject probably of very many campaign ads heading into the midterms.

    And there's a great deal of potential peril and liability for the Democratic Party, as well as the president. That's one of the reasons we saw some of the border state Democrats, some centrist Democrats come out fairly strongly warning the White House not to do this, asking to keep the Title 42 restrictions in place.

    And keep an eye on Arizona in particular, where Senator Mark Kelly is likely to face a tough race. And he's been one of the voices out there telling Biden not to make this move.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    That is Nick Miroff of The Washington Post joining us tonight.

    Nick, thanks so much.

  • Nick Miroff:

    My pleasure.

Listen to this Segment