McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — The public health law that prevented migrants from claiming asylum at U.S. land ports of entry due to the coronavirus pandemic has been lifted for unaccompanied migrant children.
Title 42 no longer applies to asylum-seeking children who cross the border alone, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Saturday.
However, that does not include Mexican children who fall under different laws and will continue to be expelled, a congressman told Border Report.
The CDC made the decision “after considering current public health conditions” and determined “that expulsion of unaccompanied noncitizen children is not warranted to protect the public health,” according to an agency statement.
The health agency issued Title 42 in March 2020 at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and has repeatedly come under fire from migrant advocacy groups who do not believe there is justification for keeping all migrants who are seeking asylum out of the country, nor that migrants pose an imminent health threat any more so than others crossing the U.S. borders.
Under Title 42, non-citizen migrants trying to cross from Mexico and Canada into the United States were quickly expelled back in a matter of minutes without even being processed by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers.
“Title 42 is a faster process to return people. You expel them — not process them and then deport them,” U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, vice chairman of the House Homeland Security Appropriations Committee explained to Border Report.
Cuellar, who is from the South Texas border city of Laredo, explained Mexican children still will not be admitted into the United States at land ports.
“That’s a totally different law. If you’re from a contiguous country — Mexico and Canada — you are treated very differently. You can be returned a lot faster,” Cuellar said.
But just because unaccompanied children are allowed to claim asylum in the United States does not mean they are free to wander the country. They are taken into custody by officials with U.S. Health and Human Services and often held in child detention facilities, placed with caregivers or held in hotels or other child group settings for an indefinite period of time.
Biden administration officials say their goal is to match children with eligible relatives and caregivers and get them out of detention as quickly as possible.
“This Administration’s goal is to move unaccompanied minors who arrive at our borders out of DHS custody and into HHS facilities, and ultimately place them with vetted family members or sponsors as quickly and safely as possible,” according to an HHS spokesperson.
“HHS holds the child for testing and quarantine and shelters the child until the child is placed with a sponsor here in the United States. In more than 80% of cases, the child has a family member in the United States. In more than 40% of cases that family member is a parent or legal guardian,” HHS officials said.
On Tuesday, there were 334 unaccompanied children apprehended and placed into CBP custody nationwide, according to HHS and DHS officials. Nearly 10,000 migrant children remained in HHS custody.
Alianza Americas, a nonprofit Chicago-based migrant advocacy group, on Monday held an online news conference in which they launched their Freedom For All campaign to urge the Biden administration not to hold migrant children, or any persons who are seeking asylum in the United States. Organizers said under humanitarian laws all asylum seekers should be allowed onto U.S. soil.
“Title 42 should never have been used,” Alianza Americas Executive Director Oscar Chacón said in response to a question from Border Report. “It enabled immigration authorities in a super fast manner simply to to deny entry and send back the people.”
“There is simply no evidence that immigrants at the U.S. southern border represented ever a threat in the context of COVID-19,” Chacón said.
Sandra Sanchez can be reached at Ssanchez@borderreport.com