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Biden is ending COVID-19 emergency declarations this May. What does it mean for Title 42?

Published: Tuesday, January 31, 2023 - 5:43pm
Updated: Wednesday, February 1, 2023 - 7:55am

This week the Biden administration announced emergency declarations tied to the COVID pandemic will end May 11.

Title 42 was enacted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the spring of 2020 on the premise of protecting public health during the pandemic. Since then it's been used to turn away more than a million migrants and asylum seekers at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, policy director at the American Immigration Council, says Title 42 can end in two ways.

"First, the CDC director can determine that there is no longer a need for Title 42 and terminate it that way," he said. 

The Biden administration tried to end Title 42 that way last spring, but a GOP-led lawsuit kept it in place. Now, Reichlin-Melnick says the health emergency it’s tied to is also expiring.

"As a result, when May 11 hits, that means that the best reading of the law is that Title 42 will terminate as soon as the public health emergency terminates," he said. 

In a statement Monday, the White House said "the end of the public health emergency will end the Title 42 policy at the border" and the administration supported an "orderly, predictable wind-down" of the protocol with enough time to put alternatives in place. 

Meanwhile, two lawsuits that could decide the future of the protocol are moving through the federal court system. Reichlin-Melnick says it’s still unclear whether, or how, new lawsuits could spring up to keep it in place.

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