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Biden administration’s support for cruel anti-migrant policy faces renewed scrutiny

A former top U.S. health official said the Trump administration's Title 42 policy wasn’t based on science, so why are Biden officials still enforcing it?


A Trump administration policy that cited Covid-19 as a reason to turn away migrants seeking entry through the U.S.-Mexico border defied scientific evidence and guidance, a former top U.S. health official told congressional investigators recently.

The controversial policy, known as Title 42, permits U.S. officials to turn away migrants they say pose a risk to public health. President Joe Biden’s administration has defended the policy and used it to expel tens of thousands of migrants.

As part of its ongoing investigation into former President Donald Trump’s response to the pandemic, the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis released excerpts Friday from recent interviews it conducted with former officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Several of them alleged Trump officials ignored their evidence-based opinions on Covid or cravenly pressured them to alter or withhold scientific guidance.

Photo Illustration: President Biden wears a mask, over images of asylum seekers at the border
Biden administration officials have faced backlash for enforcing Title 42, an anti-migrant policy enacted during the Trump administration. MSNBC / Getty

Dr. Anne Schuchat, the CDC’s former principal deputy director, told the committee the Trump administration’s decision to enforce Title 42 wasn’t based on science.

“The bulk of the evidence at that time did not support this policy proposal,” Schuchat told congressional investigators. She noted that Dr. Martin Cetron, the director of CDC’s Division of Global Migration and Quarantine, didn't back the policy at the time.

“His view was that the facts on the ground didn’t call for this from a public health reason, and that the decision wasn’t being made based on criteria for quarantine,” she continued. “It may have been initiated for other purposes.”

In fact, years before the Covid-19 pandemic, Trump adviser Stephen Miller, an outward opponent of legal migration, sought to use multiple other illnesses to bar migrants on Title 42 grounds.

Given the latest context surrounding Title 42, the Biden administration’s continued allegiance to this cruel, blatantly discriminatory policy is untenable.

You’ll remember the controversy over this policy reached a national stage in September, when images of agents aggressively corralling Haitian migrants for expulsion at the southern border led to widespread outrage. At the time, Joy invited Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on “The ReidOut” to answer for the Biden administration’s actions. 

“Title 42 is a public health policy that is directed by the CDC, and it has been employed as a result of the trajectory of the Covid-19 pandemic,” Mayorkas said. He added that the administration intends to “continue to exercise our Title 42 authority in light of the public health imperative.”

But according to Schuchat, the health imperative Mayorkas cited for turning away asylum-seekers wasn’t real. Yep.

If Biden officials want to continue enforcing this anti-migrant policy, they will either need to provide scientific evidence that has so far eluded this administration and the last — or they’ll need to give another reason why they think migrants should be barred from entry.

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