Judge blocks Title 42 health order used to expel people crossing southern border

A record number of migrant apprehensions at the border is challenging the Biden administration and a new ruling by a federal judge has further complicated the landscape. Title 42 is a pandemic-related policy and has been used to turn away more than one million people, but a judge ruled it violates federal regulatory law and must end. Nick Miroff of The Washington Post joined Amna Nawaz to discuss.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    A record number of migrant apprehensions at the U.S. Southern border is challenging the Biden administration, and a new ruling by a federal judge on a controversial border policy known as Title 42 has further complicated the landscape.

    Amna Nawaz is here with the latest.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Judy, Title 42 is a pandemic-related policy put into place in March of 2020 by the Trump administration and kept in place for much of Biden's presidency.

    Citing COVID concerns, it's been used to turn away more than one million people arriving at the Southern border. The Biden administration's attempt to end the policy was blocked by a federal judge in May. But late Tuesday, a U.S. district court judge ruled that Title 42 violates federal regulatory law and must end, all of this as officials are managing an increase in attempted border crossings.

    Nick Miroff covers immigration for The Washington Post, and he joins me now.

    Nick, welcome back to the "NewsHour." And thanks for joining us.

    We should point out, Title 42 is in place and it remains in place right now. But what does this latest ruling mean for when that policy will end?

  • Nick Miroff, The Washington Post:

    That's right.

    Well, Judge Sullivan just today issued a stay of his ruling. He wrote — actually wrote in the ruling that he issued it with great reluctance, but it gives the government five more weeks essentially to get its ducks in a row before Title 42 is gone.

    And so just a few days before the holidays, the Biden administration will no longer have this tool at the border. And so it's got to prepare over the next five weeks for a potential major increase in the number of people attempting to enter the United States.

    It says that that's something it's been preparing for, for a long time and that it's going to work to make sure that this is going to remain — that this will be an orderly process. But I should say the biggest fear that many members of this administration have, especially at the Department of Homeland Security, is that they will see a repeat of the — of a Del Rio-style influx, the kind that we saw last September in Del Rio, Texas, when thousands of people crossed the Rio Grande at the same time and really overwhelmed U.S. capacity.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Nick, the context here is really, really important.

    So, I want to show some numbers to give folks a sense of what's been happening at the U.S. Southern border. These are numbers to from just the last few months in terms of total border encounters. You see the number back in July there. They topped 200,000. They have been ticking up steadily. And October's latest numbers now show them at a record high 230,678 border encounters.

    Nick, you mentioned expect those numbers to go up. But as they put things into place, do this orderly transition, what can they do to prepare?

  • Nick Miroff:

    Well, they can increase capacity to hold migrants in custody. They can send more agents and other personnel, including potentially National Guard or other DH personnel — DHS personnel to the border to assist Border Patrol agents.

    But, really, they are going to be up against a wall if the number of people coming across significantly increases. What we have seen in the past, what they have had to revert to is issuing notices to appear or notices to report, basically quickly checking somebody's background and taking their fingerprints, and then telling them to report to immigration authorities and their destination in the United States.

    The problem with that is that, once people start doing that and have the — and word spreads that you can cross the border and not — and not be immediately deported, it does create a major incentive for more people to come. And, of course, smuggling organizations throughout the world are going to try to capitalize on that.

    So this is their fear, ramping up — they need they need to ramp up their capacity and their ability to handle that kind of an influx over the next five weeks to get ready.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Meanwhile, in Texas, I wanted to ask you about what we have seen Republican Governor Greg Abbott do.

    Just yesterday, he moved to invoke the so-called Invasion Clause of the Texas Constitution and U.S. Constitution. What does that allow him to do? And can he legally do that?

  • Nick Miroff:

    You know, I didn't see very much new in that announcement. It seemed like a repackaging of other things that he has announced.

    The issue is that, while state officials can help make apprehensions, can stop migrants who are present in the country illegally, they have to give them over to federal authorities. And so what that — what that ends up happening is, his — the forces under Governor Abbott's command can take people back to the border.

    They can hand them over to CBP, to U.S. Customs and Border Protection there at the border. But then it remains up to the Biden administration, essentially, what to do with those migrants.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Nick, the big picture here is, we have more people fleeing instability and insecurity for more places coming to the U.S. Southern border.

    And our immigration system hasn't really meaningfully changed in three decades. Are there real options for big change that would help to address this?

  • Nick Miroff:

    Look, I think there's broad agreement in both parties that the system is broken and desperately needs fixes.

    But what we have seen again and again is that there's very little room for compromise on this issue. It inflames passions. And I think we're further away from any kind of deal right now than we have been in a long time. We have seen proposals come and go. And so there's very little reason to believe that now, going into the next election cycle, that lawmakers are in the mood for compromise.

    So, I think that we can expect this kind of dysfunctional status quo to remain for a long time.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Nick Miroff, who covers immigration for The Washington Post, thank you for joining us.

  • Nick Miroff:

    Thank you. My pleasure.

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