Biden Is Preparing to End the Only Provision Currently Controlling Our Borders | Opinion

The Biden administration is reportedly planning to end a Trump-era rule that used COVID-19 as a means to curb illegal immigration. Title 42 is a little-known public health provision invoked by the Trump administration in March 2020 which allowed the U.S. to promptly remove migrants caught crossing the border illegally to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. In February, 55 percent of the 164,973 migrants apprehended by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) were removed under Title 42.

And yet now, with record numbers of migrants attempted to cross the border each month, President Biden is reportedly seeking to end the provision as early as April, due to the waning pandemic.

Ending Title 42 along with other COVID restrictions would not be a problem except for the fact that, as a result of a string of other policy decisions the Biden administration has made over the past 14 months, it is the only functioning mechanism still in place to remove migrants who cross our borders illegally. The result of scrapping Title 42 without restoring other border enforcement policies that the administration has systematically jettisoned would be sheer chaos.

Who says so? President Biden's own Department of Homeland Security (DHS). According to a report by Axios citing officials within DHS, ending Title 42 would result in an immediate surge of 170,000 additional migrants attempting to enter the United States illegally.

migrants
Haitian migrants continue to cross the US-Mexico border on the Rio Grande as seen from Ciudad Acuna, Coahuila state, Mexico on September 19, 2021. - US law enforcement, trying to control the flow of migrants from crossing back and forth from Mexico, is not providing enough food and water in the encampment thus causing people to cross back and forth, whichever way they can. Thousands of migrants, many of them Haitians, are crowded under a bridge in Texas after crossing the Rio Grande river, hoping to be allowed into the country. PAUL RATJE/AFP via Getty Images

Yet, in response to these dire warnings from career DHS officials, the White House is busy planning to deal with the anticipated crisis, rather than averting it. Preparations for handling the expected surge of new migrants on top of the already existing crisis are currently being hammered out at DHS headquarters.

If this is a strategy that sounds familiar, it's because it is precisely the one employed by the White House last summer in response to military and intelligence reports that the President's hasty plan to withdraw from Afghanistan would result in an even hastier Taliban takeover. They stuck to their withdrawal timetable while planning for "every possible contingency" to deal with the aftermath of a Taliban victory. We know how that worked out.

Much like Afghanistan, preparations for ending Title 42 are focused entirely on coping with the crisis rather than averting it. First up, the plan entails creating a Southwest Border Coordination Center (SBCC), essentially a war room to coordinate a multi-agency response to the expected surge of illegal migrants. DHS is seeking the assistance of the U.S. Air Marshals and the Department of Defense (DoD) for aircraft to move migrants away from border choke points, and buses from the Federal Bureau of Prisons to transport migrants to newly created tent cities, before they are ultimately dispersed around the country.

It is a plan that White House spokesperson Vedant Patel describes as "good government in action." "As always is the case, this Administration is working every day to provide relief to immigrants, restore order, fairness, and humanity to our immigration system and bring it into the 21st century," Patel told Axios in a statement. Tellingly, preventing even more explosive levels of illegal immigration is not part of what the administration is working on every day, or apparently, any day.

And the administration does have other options. For starters, the President could keep Title 42 in place. COVID may not be as big of a public health threat as it was a few months ago, but it hasn't gone away entirely. As the past two years have taught us, there are a lot of letters in the Greek alphabet, and a new variant could come roaring back with little notice.

The administration could also reinstate the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) under which third-country migrants seeking asylum wait in Mexico, pending a hearing to determine if their claims have merit before being allowed to enter the U.S. While it was in place, it effectively deterred migrants from filing meritless asylum claims in an attempt to enter the country.

Indeed, the Biden administration has already been ordered by a federal court to restore MPP, an order they are openly defying. Over a two-month span in December and January, only 410 illegal migrants were returned to Mexico under the program. Meanwhile, the administration is urgently pursuing legally acceptable ways of formally ending the program.

It does not require any special psychic powers to anticipate that removal of the only functioning mechanism to deter mass illegal immigration will lead to even more. The already dire situation at the border stands as a testament to that fact. "Good government in action" is having a viable plan in place to deter new surges of migration that you know are coming before Title 42 is ended.

As the administration should have learned from its debacle in Afghanistan, preventing a crisis is a much better option than managing one.

Ira Mehlman is media director at the Federation of American Immigration Reform (FAIR) in Washington D.C.

The views in this article are the writer's own.