A new House bill introduced by New Mexico Republican Rep. Yvette Herrell Tuesday would cement immigration restrictions on illegal entry from Canada and Mexico for as long as the coronavirus pandemic persists.
The Protecting Americans from Unnecessary Spread upon Entry (PAUSE) from COVID-19 Act of 2021 preserves the existing measures at the border directing immediate deportation over detention for those caught illegally entering the country while prohibiting entry from those who might be carrying the virus. The statute, implemented last year under Title 42 of the federal code that deals with health and welfare, provides Customs and Border Protection (CBP) the authority to immediately expel illegal aliens rather than hold them in detainment.
Under Herrell’s legislation, the new Title 42 guidelines would remain in place until all state and federal public health emergencies are brought to an end, all lockdowns are lifted, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention COVID-19 travel risk for Canada and Mexico are reduced to level 1. The CDC currently rates Canada and Mexico at level 4 risk, encouraging Americans to avoid all travel to each country.
“We’ve been in lockdown for nine months for naught if we’re going to allow people with coronavirus into our nation,” Herrell told The Federalist, emphasizing if the floodgates to migration were opened to nations with high rates of Wuhan virus cases, it would erase painful viral mitigation efforts in the form of draconian lockdowns to slow the spread. “What was the purpose of closing our businesses, conforming to masks, not educating our children?”
Pro-immigration advocates had already set their sights on Title 42 since before Biden took office on Inauguration Day, as the Democratic president engineers a reversal of his predecessor’s hard-line policies on immigration. CBP reports it has already used the Title 42 rule to deport more than 180,000 migrants along the southern border and 118 at the northern border.
“Joe Biden can and should reverse all of those policies, starting with the Title 42 closure of the border,” Karen Musalo, the director of the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies, urged on a press call the week prior to Biden’s swearing-in ceremony, arguing proper COVID-19 screenings combined with circumstantial two-week quarantines were more appropriate.
Biden has indeed prioritized sweeping immigration reform conducted by pen as part of an avalanche of executive orders signed in his first week in office, halting the construction of the southern border wall and reinstating protections for illegal immigrants.
It remains unclear whether the new administration will repeal Trump-era rules under Title 42, though Biden’s pick to lead the Department of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas, told lawmakers last week he’d be “studying Title 42 authorities.”
“I can say this unequivocally, that our highest priority is to protect the health and wellbeing of the American public,” Mayorkas said on the issue, leaving the future of Title 42 uncertain.