The Biden administration is contemplating ending a Trump-era policy by which U.S. border officials could turn back migrant families to Mexico based on health concerns, Axios reported.
Title 42, a public health order implemented in March 2020 to protect America from an influx of COVID-19, resulted in tens of thousands of migrants being turned away. Axios said the White House is considering ending the order in regard to families by as early as July 31.
Administration officials have found it harder to defend Title 42 as U.S. vaccination rates climb, and death and infection numbers fall, Axios said.
"[It's] a public health decision that will be made ultimately on those grounds," a White House official told Axios. The official added the administration would not get ahead of any Centers for Disease Control and Prevention determinations.
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas agreed.
"It's not a tool of immigration policy," Mayorkas said of Title 42 during a trip to Mexico City Tuesday, according to Reuters. Mayorkas added the order would remain in effect as long as it would benefit public health.
President Joe Biden has been briefed on a plan for stopping the order, as well as the option of letting a court end it, Axios reported Sunday.
White House officials admitted to Axios that not enforcing Title 42 for families could lead to more migrants coming to the U.S.-Mexico border, and could intensify pressure to end the policy for single adults.
CDC officials and doctors who serve as consultants for the Department of Homeland Security have opposed using Title 42 order to expel migrants.
American Civil Liberties Union has put a temporary hold -- until July 2 -- on its lawsuit targeting the practice of expelling families while it negotiates with the administration.
Axios reported top officials have suggested Biden end the order, which has been sharply criticized by immigration advocates and many Democrats.
They argue the president should seize the initiative because allowing the ACLU to sue would force the Justice Department to defend Trump's policy, according to Axios.
A DOJ defense could result in sensitive information being released, and could be seen as contradictory to Biden's commitment to asylum, Axios said.
The report said that since March, Title 42 has been applied to less than half of family encounters along the border due to limited space in Mexican shelters and some Mexican states refusing to take in families with young children.
Also, the Biden administration has cited humanitarian concerns to set up a process for exempting more migrants.
Axios said more than 350,000 migrant adults have been expelled during the past 4 months.
The Associated Press reported Tuesday the U.S. donated 1.35 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine to Mexico, where officials say they will be available to residents in 4 border towns.
Mexican officials said there’s no reason to continue restricting nonessential travel once the doses are administered.
As a senator from California, Vice President Kamala Harris signed on to an April 2020 letter with fellow Democrats accusing the Trump administration of violating federal law when it took the drastic step of implementing Title 42.
Politico reported Harris, whom Biden chose to spearhead the effort in solving the border crisis, has supported the administration's decision to keep the border closed under the very same provision, according to 2 people familiar with the vice president's thinking.
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