(The Center Square) – As illegal immigration continues to surge at the southern border, President Joe Biden is under fire for reports that his administration is considering changing a key immigration policy to allow more people to enter the country.
Former President Donald Trump enacted a policy called Title 42 in March of last year to allow federal border officials to expel migrants held in border facilities in an attempt to keep COVID-19 from spreading in facilities and from there into U.S. communities. Biden has not reversed the policy despite pressure from liberal groups, but media reports Monday indicated the Biden administration is considering lifting the Trump rule.
The news comes after several months of increased illegal immigration along the U.S. border with Mexico.
U.S. Customs and Border Patrol released data earlier this year reporting that CBP encountered 172,000 illegal immigrants attempting to cross the southern border in March, a major increase from 101,000 in February. Those figures have increased by several thousand per month since and significantly outpaced numbers from the same time last year.
Former Acting Department of Homeland Security secretary Chad Wolf raised the alarm about the proposed plan, pointing out the potential increase in COVID cases from migrants.
“The Biden administration's reported move to rescind Title 42 is both reckless and foolish. As the U.S. continues to climb out of this crisis, we need to ensure, now more than ever, that we do not intentionally introduce new COVID cases into the country,” Wolf said. “Removing Title 42 will also be yet another signal from this administration that the border is open and another reason for illegal migrants to enter the country illegally. It would be unfathomable that the administration would proactively take a step to make this crisis worse.”
To further complicate the issue, the Biden administration changed the rules for Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, narrowing the circumstances under which they can arrest illegal immigrants.
A report from the Migration Policy Institute released in April of this year found that a series of executive actions by the Biden administration had led to a 60% reduction in ICE arrests, despite the significant rise in illegal border crossings.
“Make no mistake, the Biden administration is purposefully making it harder for federal law enforcement and immigration officials to do their jobs and expel those who come here illegally,” said Mark Morgan, former acting commissioner for Customs and Border Protection. “Sadly, this politically motivated action will not just push already sky-high border crossing numbers to the breaking point. It will also needlessly endanger the health and well-being of American citizens throughout the country as they will be exposed to increased numbers of illegal aliens potentially carrying COVID. Few to none of the nearly 1 million illegal aliens apprehended have been vaccinated, and there is little effective health infrastructure along the route to help prevent spread of the virus.”
Stats like these have led to increasing angst among Republicans, particularly in border states. Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced earlier this month that he would build a border wall for his state. He also demanded the federal government return land that was taken for a wall but never used.
Last week, Abbott announced a $250 million down payment on the wall as part of his overall immigration strategy.
"The Biden Administration has abandoned its responsibilities to secure the border and Texans are suffering as a result," Abbott said. "The problems along the border are only getting worse due to President Biden's inaction. Property is being destroyed, deadly drugs and illegal weapons are being smuggled into communities throughout the state, law enforcement is having to redirect their resources, and county judges and mayors are facing skyrocketing expenses.
“In the Biden Administration's absence, Texas is stepping up to get the job done by building the border wall,” he added. “Through this comprehensive public safety effort, we will secure the border, slow the influx of unlawful immigrants, and restore order in our border communities."
Biden, though, has defended his handling of the border, pointing to a reduction in the amount of time children spend in border facilities, COVID testing for some migrants, and an expansion in open slots for refugees.
“Border numbers fluctuate, however, based on annual migration trends and that is why this administration is working to establish lawful pathways for individuals to migrate or seek protection, address the root causes of migration, restore fair, orderly and humane means to apply for asylum and deter irregular migration,” the White House said in a statement. “The administration has made significant progress at establishing a well-managed and secure border while also treating people fairly and humanely. The American people support this approach.”
The Republican establishment has capitalized on Biden’s struggles at the southern border, raking in record fundraising for three consecutive months.
“The Biden Administration is doing whatever it can to make the #BidenBorderCrisis worse and Americans are having to pay the price,” said National Republican Congressional Committee Spokeswoman Torunn Sinclair.
A key part of this line of attack has been lambasting Vice President Kamala Harris, who has not visited the southern border since being tapped by Biden to head up the immigration crisis.
“Border Patrol agents told me we need to keep Title 42 in place as they attempt to manage the illegal immigration surge,” said Rep. Ashley Hinson, R-Iowa. “Maybe if [Harris] had been to the border & heard from those on the ground, the Admin wouldn’t be reversing policies law enforcement use to keep us safe.”