McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez sent a letter to President Joe Biden imploring him to visit the South Texas border prior to the scheduled ending of Title 42 later this month.
Cortez sent the two-page letter Monday saying Hidalgo County is situated “at unique crossroads of national security and economic considerations.”
He expressed concerns about lifting Title 42, a public health law that was invoked in March 2020 by the Trump administration to prevent cross-border spread of coronavirus between the United States, Canada and Mexico.
Cortez said South Texas was especially hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.
At one point trailers lined the parking lots of hospitals where bodies were stored as patients on gurneys lined hallways and breakrooms of all emergency facilities here.
“For many months our healthcare facilities operated at maximum capacity and our frontline medical personnel worked tirelessly to save lives. It is with that in mind that I write to invite you to visit our border communities before your administration makes any substantial change to current border policy,” Cortez wrote.
Hidalgo County has had over 164,000 coronavirus cases and 3,700 deaths since the pandemic began, according to county records.
The Biden administration announced that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is lifting Title 42 on May 23. However, since the announcement, there have been several court challenges from various states, including Texas.
Texas even has begun sending migrants to Washington, D.C., in buses in response to concerns about a Title 42 rollback. And Texas Gov. Greg Abbott last week confirmed that he is crowdsourcing online to raise money from donors to pay for the bus trips.
Last month, a federal judge in Louisiana issued a temporary restraining order to stop the rollback of the law. So it is uncertain whether Title 42 will actually be lifted or not at month’s end.
Nevertheless, most border leaders in South Texas have been calling for Title 42 to remain.
“President Biden, as a public servant in a border community I must implore you to visit our region before the existing Order is suspended,” Cortez wrote.
“While the final impact of migrants entering the United States is shared across the entirety of our great nation the initial impact is limited to border communities such as ours. We bear the responsibility of welcoming, treating and caring for these migrants even as we struggle to care for the less fortunate in our community. If we continue on the current path that ceases enforcement of the current order, the negative consequences are expected to be real and immediate for American Citizens living in border communities across the Southwest,” Cortez wrote.
U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, a Democrat who represents part of Hidalgo County, on Tuesday told Border Report that Biden should take Cortez up on the offer to visit. But he doubts the president will.
“Will he come? No. But should he come: Yes,” Cuellar said.
President Biden has never visited South Texas, but candidate Kamala Harris has visited the city of Edinburg. Jill Biden visited in December 2019 and also traveled across the border from Brownsville, Texas, to Matamoros, Mexico, and passed out food at a migrant refugee encampment on the banks of the Rio Grande prior to the election.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas last week during several hearings before Congress repeatedly said that when Title 42 is lifted that DHS officials will utilize Title 8 to send back those migrants who do not qualify for asylum either to Mexico or to their home countries.