Lankford Once Again Asks What the Administration Plan is Post-Pandemic to Stop the Crisis at the Border
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WASHINGTON, DC – Senator James Lankford (R-OK) today clarified once again that revoking the emergency order under Title 42 would create massive unintended consequences that would make the crisis at the border even worse. Lankford highlighted that any repeal of Title 42 would result in at least 2 million illegal immigrants entering the country and expressed his concerns that the Biden Administration currently has no plan to address the crisis at the border. Title 42 is a clause of the 1944 Public Health Services Law that has provided law enforcement at the border the authority to remove illegal immigrants during a public health emergency.
Lankford clarified that the vote on the National Emergencies Act resolution to address the COVID-19 pandemic does not change anything regarding Title 42. Earlier this year, Lankford went to the US–Mexico border in the Rio Grande Valley sector where he said once again that the Administration still has no plan to secure the border.
We are about to vote on an issue dealing with the national emergency here in the United States dealing with the pandemic. There’s been no great shock that we function under a lot of additional authorities that are happening, but I want to provide a little bit of clarity into this conversation as well. The measure that we’re dealing with right now, dealing with COVID and the pandemic that’s here, we also know there’s a global pandemic, and improving medical situation here doesn’t necessarily mean improving the medical situation everywhere, nor should it change what’s called Title 42.
A quick explanation on this. The Surgeon General, CDC, HHS have all worked together with the President to be able to recommend that based on the public health crisis that we’re currently under, Title 42 states this: ‘Whenever the Surgeon General determines that by reason of the existence of any communicable disease in a foreign country, there’s a serious danger to the introduction of such disease in the United States and that this dangerous is increased by the introduction of persons or property of such country that a suspension of the right to introduce such persons and property is required in the interest of the public health, the Surgeon General in accordance with the regulations approved by the president, shall have the power to prohibit the introductions of persons or property from such countries or places they shall designate.’ That’s Title 42.
Why does that matter to us? Because in the last two years our country along our border has been managing much of the border based on Title 42. Now, it is no secret to anyone in this room. I would assume everyone in this room knows, we have the highest number of border encounters, that’s people crossing our border illegally last year, in the history of our country. Over two million people illegally crossed our borders. What some may not know is last year, 900,000 of those were brought into the system in the United States; 1.1 million of those were turned around at the border with Title 42 authority, meaning because of the pandemic, because of the risk and the crisis and the introduction of additional individuals likely to have COVID, they were turned around at the border.
The concern is, and I have raised this concern over and over with CBP, what is your plan post-pandemic for the Title 42 authority? Now, I want everyone to think about last summer. Last summer what was happening in Donna, Texas? Last summer what was happening in multiple places along the border where our facilities were overrun with people and not manageable? That was when we were introducing 900,000 people into the country. What does that look like this summer if there’s two million people in that group coming across?
That’s why I want to make it very clear that what we’re voting on now has no effect on Title 42 authority. We continue to have serious health concerns as Title 42 states in many other countries, and I have continued to encourage DHS, have a plan in place. Currently, they do not. It appears that their plan is once Title 42 goes away, all two million will get into the country. I think that’s a serious problem, and I think it’s something that we should address.
In the meantime, we should not relieve Title 42, and this vote does not change anything with the Surgeon General’s decision on Title 42—by the way, a surgeon general position that has been in two administrations in a row to be able to be maintained on this.
So just to clarify for this body, this vote has nothing to do with Title 42, that is a surgeon general responsibility, but this body needs to do additional oversight to make sure DHS is paying attention to what’s happening at our southern border, because we could very well have 1.1 million additional people illegally cross into the country, not just across the border and returned, but into the country in the days ahead.