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Title 42, the xenophobic Trump-era migrant policy, is dead (again)

A federal judge may have dealt a final blow to one of the ugliest holdovers from the Trump administration, an anti-immigrant policy based on Covid.


Title 42, the xenophobic policy that allowed U.S. officials to turn migrants away at the border because of Covid, was ruled unconstitutional by a judge who put an end to it Monday. 

Title 42 is a holdover from the Trump administration that was conceived by white nationalist White House adviser Stephen Miller. Effectively, the policy allowed the Trump administration to bar millions of migrants from entering the United States, where they would legally be allowed to request asylum. 

As NBC News explained:

Since the Trump administration implemented the rule in March 2020 because of the Covid pandemic, the federal agency has turned people back 2 million times. In May, a federal judge in Louisiana blocked the Biden administration’s attempt to end the policy. [U.S. District Judge Emmet] Sullivan said the rule violates the Administrative Procedures Act and argued that it’s “arbitrary and capricious.” His ruling stemmed from a lawsuit brought by a group of asylum-seeking families who fled to the U.S.

The Biden administration was inexplicably slow to rescind Title 42 and faced a deluge of criticism from Democrats and human rights activists for continuing the policy as long as they had. Still, a lawsuit filed by Republican attorneys general in multiple states successfully tied the administration’s hands until Tuesday.

Several centrist Democrats on the ballot in this election cycle sided with Republicans in demanding that the Biden administration reinstate the policy, claiming it was needed to curb the influx of immigrants coming through the U.S.-Mexico border. 

But here’s the thing: Title 42 is supposed to be a public health measure — not a fix for our broken immigration system. (A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention official has testified before Congress that the policy was unnecessary to stem the spread of Covid, FYI.) And the United States has, by and large, dispensed with most of its Covid protocols on a systemic level. Individuals — sane ones, in my view — may still be masking up and social distancing, but there’s no widespread alarm over a disease that continues to kill several hundred people per day, according to CDC data

The more lax the United States has gotten with its own Covid measures, the more egregious Title 42 has looked. 

It’s revealing that a country like the U.S., which has largely spurned Covid safety measures, would cling to such a measure to discriminate against those looking to come here. 

Title 42 was poorly disguised bigotry and, like a zombie, it has come back multiple times. Let’s hope Tuesday’s ruling killed it off for good.