SAN ANTONIO — There has been a lot of talk lately about “Title 42.” With it come images of crowds of people crossing or on the banks of the Rio Grande, which divides the US and Mexico. As it nears its possible end next Thursday, it might be a good time to understand what it’s all about.

What is Title 42?

Title 42 is part of US law dealing with public health, social welfare, and civil rights. Gives the federal government the authority to take emergency measures to keep communicable diseases out of the country. Before President Donald Trump wore it in 2020, it had only been worn In 1929 to prevent ships from China and the Philippines from entering US ports during a meningitis outbreak.

Trump invoked the law when the coronavirus pandemic broke out, apparently to prevent the spread of Covid, but its implementation allowed the Trump administration to expel migrants more quickly without having to scamyesConsider them asylumand has continued under the Biden administration.

Why is there talk of ‘lifting’ Title 42?

The Biden administration had repeatedly sought to end the policy, but its plans were delayed due to legal challenges from the attorneys general of the Republican states. The pandemic abated, making the public health order that led to the use of Title 42 moot, and the US Supreme Court struck down arguments in the case. Another administration effort to undo the policy had been blocked by a federal judge in Louisiana.

Why has the use of Title 42 been controversial?

Immigration and humanitarian groups have accused the Trump administration of using the pandemic as a pretext to deny tens of thousands of people migrating to the United States the opportunity to receive humanitarian aid through asylum. They have also criticized the Biden administration for continuing to use it. The groups have said the measure fuels racism and allows discrimination because some countries, like Venezuela, were exempt.

The Biden administration began applying Title 42 to Venezuelans in October and began allowing 30,000 Venezuelans a month to enter the country through humanitarian parole, resulting in a decrease in the number of Venezuelans crossing the border. In January, Mexico agreed to take in more migrants expelled from the US, which also helped manage the number of people arriving at the border. But there was a rebound in March with the anticipation of the end of the use of Title 42 and warmer weather, according to the Washington Office on Latin America.

After a lull in immigration at the end of the Obama administration, including zero net migration from Mexico, the number of people arriving at the border has increased. World events, economic disparities, expanding cartel smuggling operations, congressional inaction and outdated immigration laws have meant the number of times border officials encounter people crossing into the country illegally. has returned to the registered figures in the early 2000s.

So will the border be open or not secure if Title 42 ends?

Defining the border as «open» or not secure has more to do with political rhetoric.

If Title 42 ends, the government reverts to previous immigration law, which falls under Title 8 of the US Code of Federal Statutes.

While border officials can remove people from the country more quickly under Title 42 because they can bypass the asylum process, migrants do not face the penalties they would now face under Title 8: including up to two years imprisonment. prison if a person returns. -enter the country illegally after being removed or deported.

Without those consequences, Mexican migrants and others have been using Title 42 “as a means to obtain multiple opportunities to enter the United States,” said Ariel Ruiz Soto, a policy analyst with the Migration Policy Institute, a think tank. “That is counterproductive. , because it somehow incentivizes migrants to try multiple times, and the more times they try, the more likely they are to succeed.»

The administration has been requiring people who want to apply for asylum without crossing the border illegally to make appointments through the CBP One app, but the app has been frustrating for some when they fail after multiple attempts to get appointments, leaving them waiting in situations often dangerous. and overcrowded conditions in Mexico. Frustration can lead them to try to enter illegally and then ask for asylum.

In 2019, before Title 42 went into effect, only 7% of migrants apprehended by Border Patrol had been previously apprehended. The recidivism rate grew to 27% in fiscal year 2022.

According to the libertarian Cato Institute, Title 42 has been used primarily to expel single adults from Mexico and the Northern Triangle. Last year, nearly half of those single adults had been previously arrested under Title 42, Cato reported. In addition, the institute found that the number of people who were caught crossing illegally but not arrested, known as «runaways,» increased under Title 42 from 12,500 per month in 2019 to an average of 50,000 last year.

Why are cities on the border and in the interior nervous about what comes next?

Even with Title 42 in place, nonprofit groups that run shelters in the US, as well as officials in border cities, have had to respond to large groups of people after Customs and Border Protection attacked them. released.

Providing migrants with room, food, clothing, and travel assistance to their final destinations, often out of state where they have family or friends, requires money, volunteers, and space.

Some officials expect there will be an increase in the number of people arriving at the border when Title 42 ends, including those arriving legally at ports of entry to apply for asylum. Additionally, there is concern that the increased number of people and additional processing time could obstruct regular movement at ports of entry.

In addition, Republicans like Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis have been making political points by busing and flying immigrants from Texas to Democratic-run cities. DeSantis caused a stir when he sent two planes to Texas, which took the migrants to Florida and then deposited them on Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. Abbott said in a letter that he will continue to shuttle people to Democratic cities after Title 42 is lifted.

What other factors affect immigration and border policy?

Congress is working on legislation to address immigration and border security, but politically a bipartisan deal is unlikely, and most of what’s moving in Congress is focused solely on enforcement.

Weather is always a factor, with warmer temperatures bringing seasonal flows, as is job availability and the need for workers in various industries across the US.

The focus on numbers arriving at the border now may be obscuring changing immigration patterns, Ruiz Soto said. New immigration trends are emerging, with increases in arrivals from Colombia, Ecuador and Peru.

“Our US immigration system is designed to discourage Mexican immigration,” Ruiz Soto said. “As migration flows become increasingly hemispheric, it is clear that our immigration system is outdated and significantly underequipped.”