California residents are likely aware that the number of undocumented migrants crossing the southern border has increased significantly since Title 42 restrictions expired on May 11. Title 42 is a section of the U.S. Code that allows authorities to issue orders to protect public health. In March 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a Title 42 order that allowed border protection and immigration authorities to expel immigrants to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The restrictions were lifted on May 11 because that is the date that the COVID-19 public health emergency in the United States officially ended.
The end of Title 42 restrictions means that immigrants will once again be able to seek asylum in the United States. The first part of the process is an interview that gives asylum seekers the opportunity to establish that they are seeking entry to the United States to escape a credible threat. When the Trump administration introduced a fast-track screening process in October 2019, the number of asylum seekers that passed the credible threat interview plummeted. President Joe Biden eliminated fast-track screening shortly after taking office, but the White House introduced a new expedited process for asylum seekers shortly before Title 42 restrictions expired.
Access to attorneys
Some advocacy groups have accused the Biden administration of reintroducing controversial immigration policies that it once vowed to scrap, but White House representatives claim that the new fast-track review process differs from the Trump era policy in two important ways. Credible fear interviews will now be conducted by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services officials rather than U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents, and all asylum seekers will be given access to attorneys before they are interviewed.
Not perfect, but necessary
The Biden administration’s revised fast-track screening process is far from perfect, but it is necessary. Several border cities declared states of emergency in the days before Title 42 restrictions expired, and the number of immigrants crossing the southern border is likely to remain much higher than normal for weeks or even months. Something had to be done to restore some semblance of order, and introducing a fairer version of a former controversial immigration policy was the best option available.