As the Biden administration prepares to lift Title 42 on May 23, more Democrats in Congress, and running for office, say they have concerns about the decision and are asking the administration to reconsider or have a more concrete plan in place for the influx of migrants expected to arrive at the southern border.
The Trump-era public health order was put in place in early 2020 and prevented migrants and asylum-seekers from crossing the border into the U.S. due to the COVID-19 pandemic. On April 1, the Centers for Disease Control said the measure was no longer necessary from a public health standpoint.
Now, more centrist Democrats like Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., and Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., who are often vocal supporters of the president's agenda, are expressing reservations about lifting the policy.
"In the region where I'm from, we're seeing infections rise. I think Philadelphia, for example, just returned to a mask mandate. So my hope is that that will be reconsidered appropriately," Coons said on CBS's Face the Nation on Sunday, referring to Title 42 getting lifted.
"Unless we have a well-thought-out plan, I think it is something that should be revisited and perhaps delayed. I'm going to defer judgment on that until I give the administration the opportunity to fully articulate what that plan is," Peters, who is also chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, said Monday, The Hill reported.
Several top Democratic Senate candidates are also asking the administration to slow down on lifting Title 42. And recent polling from Morning Consult shows that a majority of Americans oppose lifting the measure; while support and opposition break down predictably by party lines, just 31% of independent voters support Biden lifting Title 42.
The White House is pointing to a DHS plan from March
So far, the White House has pointed to a plan the Department of Homeland Security released at the end of March that outlines preparations for a potential increase in migrants. And they've criticized the holdup on the bipartisan $10 billion COVID aid bill. The bill was supposed to pass before Easter recess but Senate Republicans and some Democrats wanted to hold a voice vote on extending Title 42.
"The Department of Homeland Security and the secretary put out a comprehensive plan for what they were going to do to prepare for any increase or influx. ... That's something they're having ongoing discussions with senators, members and their teams and staff about," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday.
"The core issue is that it is being used to tie down and hold back the COVID funding," Psaki said.
But, beyond what DHS has already released, the White House has not laid out any further details or plans.
DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has said the department is increasing its capacity to process new arrivals at the border and evaluate asylum requests. In the last several weeks, the department has added at least 600 more law enforcement officers at the border and is ramping up its COVID-19 vaccination program.
Senators introduce bipartisan bill to delay lifting Title 42 by 60 days
Coons and Peters' comments come as a bipartisan group of senators introduced legislation earlier this month to delay the end of Title 42 by at least 60 more days.
Democratic Sens. Mark Kelly of Arizona and Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, who have both signed onto the bill, are up for reelection this November, underscoring the likelihood that immigration will once again be a hot-button issue for vulnerable Democrats this year.
"The Biden administration was wrong to set an end date for Title 42 without a comprehensive plan in place. ... We need a secure, orderly, and humane response at our southern border and our bipartisan legislation holds the Biden administration accountable to that," Kelly said in a statement.
Republicans, meanwhile, are demanding answers from Biden administration officials including Mayorkas. House Judiciary Committee ranking member Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, has asked the secretary to discuss the administration's plans after Title 42 is lifted when he appears at a House Judiciary hearing on April 28.