Lankford Says Removing Title 42 Authority Will Make Biden’s Southern Border Crisis Even Worse
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WASHINGTON, DC – Senator James Lankford (R-OK), the lead Republican on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Government Operations and Border Management, today highlighted the importance of maintaining Title 42 authority to expel migrants at our southern border after we saw the highest numbers of border crossers in 20 years. 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 said he would bring a Congressional Review Act forward to overturn Biden’s attempt to stop Title 42 earlier today. In his remarks about his support for ending the COVID-19 national emergency declaration recently, Lankford said again that revoking the current 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.
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. Lankford discussed Title 42 authority with Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas last May.
There’s a lot of things going on in the world right now, a lot. What’s happening in Ukraine, Russian aggression. We’re continuing to talk about the continual challenges of communist China, dealing with COVID-19 and its affects worldwide, still here in the United States, still lots of people very frustrated on transportation, mandates on the masks, I should say, other vaccine mandates that are still out there. We have a seven percent, almost eight percent inflation in the country. Cost of living is going up. All the energy issues. There are so many things that we’re dealing with around this body of late.
I want to bring something to the middle of this conversation that I don’t want us to forget about because the media seems to have pushed it all to the back burner. I’ve even had people recently catch me and say, ‘Apparently things are going much better on our southern border because I don’t hear about it anymore.’
Well, it’s not gotten better.
And I want to bring a couple of issues and one in particular that I’m very concerned about of where things are going right now on our enforcement on the southern border. This chart walks through the last 10 years of illegal crossings that have been actually apprehended, engaged. The new term is ‘encountered,’ that the Biden Administration is using. This is over the last 10 years, and this is quarter by quarter of what has actually occurred. And you’ll see rise and fall over multiple times. You’ll see spikes that have happened. But right there, that spot is when President Biden was elected. That’s that date. His election is there and this is what has occurred since that time period. And instead of seeing a big drop-off, just in the last couple of months, we’ve only seen it go down but not even close to the highest peaks in the past. To give you a point of reference on that, since January of 2021, we’ve had 2,355,000 people that we have quote-unquote ‘encountered’ on the southwest border. Folks that have illegally crossed our border. These are not just record numbers. These are all-time high numbers, nothing even close to the number of people that are illegally crossing the border.
Now this is on the southern border. And there are two facts that I want to be able to add to this, the first of which is what’s happening inside the country.
Well, that would be ICE removals. This is since 2015, the ICE removals that have been done every year, during the Obama Administration, during the Trump Administration, and then during the first year of the Biden Administration. So not only do we have 2.3 million people that have illegally come to our border and crossed it that we’ve encountered, but it’s an all-time low of actual deportations that are happening right now as well. So not only on our southern border are we seeing record numbers of high coming in, inside the country; it’s record low numbers actually being deported out.
This is by design. This is not accidental. The policies that have been put in place on our southern border were put in place to encourage people, quite frankly, to be able to cross the border, knowing full well that when you get inside, you won’t actually be deported.
There is only one policy that has been in the middle of this that’s changed the dynamic at all. And It’s a policy that most Americans have never heard of at all, and it’s called Title 42 expulsions. Quite frankly, most of the folks in this room have not heard of Title 42 expulsions. It’s a new term, so I want to be able to walk through it a little bit.
Starting in March of 2020, just two years ago when COVID started to accelerate worldwide, the Surgeon General made a recommendation through the CDC through HHS through to the President to be able to say, ‘We have a worldwide pandemic that is occurring.’
Here’s Title 42 of the Public Health Service Act. It says, ‘Whenever the Surgeon General determines that by reason of the existence of any communicable disease in a foreign country there is serious danger of the introduction of such disease into the United States and that danger is so increased by the introduction of persons or property from that country, that a suspension that a suspension of the right to introduce such persons and property is required in the interest of public health. The Surgeon General in accordance with regulations approved by the President shall have the power to prohibit the introduction of persons and property from such countries or places that they shall designate to avoid such a danger.’
In March of 2020, the Trump Administration said, ‘We’ve got a concern dealing with individuals crossing our border illegally. They’re coming from all over the world. There’s COVID all over the world. There are some authorities that you go through that you can actually say, ‘Some of these folks can be turned around immediately.’ And the Surgeon General, HHS, and the President agreed that we’re going to turn people around at the border immediately.
So the Trump Administration did that. And, by the way, right there is President Biden’s inauguration. His HHS also agreed with this same policy of Title 42 to say, ‘We have a serious risk from COVID so we should also turn people around in numbers at the border and send them back home.’ This is the number under the Biden Administration of individuals that have been turned around.
Let me give you a perspective of the 2.3 million people that have been encountered at our border since beginning of the Biden Administration, 56 percent have been turned around at the border and said, ‘You cannot enter under Title 42 authority’—56 percent of the people. So 44 percent of the people have been allowed to be able to come into our country.
So let me set this in context because I am throwing a lot of numbers out at everybody.
I want you to remember all the news reports from last year; all of the overcrowding in the Donna, Texas, facility, that we saw; all the people crammed underneath the bridge in the Rio Grande Valley; all of the folks that piled across the border in massive numbers that we saw coming into the United States, that represented only 44 percent of the people illegally crossing our border because they were allowed in. I bring this up because, as of right now, we have heard that DHS, the President, and HHS is considering canceling Title 42. If that occurs, we won’t have 1 million people illegally crossing our body and released into the United States. Within months, we’ll have 2 million, and all that you saw last summer of the flood of people, that 44 percent, imagine what that looks like more than doubled this summer.
The conversation is, we’re getting toward the back side of COVID. Ironically enough, while the President just extended the transportation requirement for masks—again—while the President just asked for billions of dollars of additional money because we need vaccines worldwide to be able to distribute more vaccines worldwide to be able to fight COVID, while we’re still dealing with all the additional surge, rise and falls in other countries. In fact, just within the last couple of days, China has gone back into lockdown based on new COVID cases in China. While all of that is occurring worldwide, apparently the president is looking to cancel Title 42. And when I have asked what will replace that policy, the question has come back to me, ‘We’re not sure yet.’ That tells me nothing is actually the plan to replace this. That’s a problem.
What happens when Title 42 goes away? An extra million people come into the country illegally. Remembering that when all of those folks come into the country, apparently the Biden Administration also has no plan to deport them.
Where are we right now with the number of people who have illegally crossed our border and where are they from?
Well let me give you a quick map This is a map from all the countries in the past year, just in the past year, that have illegally crossed our border. So in the white there is the United States. In the red are the countries that we’ve seen people illegally crossed our border. If you want to squint at that map, let me just give you shorthand for it: it’s every country in the world.
Last year we had individuals from literally every country in the world illegally cross our southern border. Yeah, that includes China, that includes North Korea, that includes Iran. It includes them all.
Interestingly enough, just in the last—well, not the last three months but the last four months that we’ve had records on it—that would be October, November, December, and January—just in those last four months that we have those records, we’ve 6,400 Russian citizens that illegally crossed our southern border, just in the last four months that we have records, 6,400 Russian citizens. We have people from all over the world that are illegally crossing our southern border because people know, if you get across the border, you’re in.
When Title 42 goes away, this accelerates even more. It’s an open invitation, because 56 percent of the people were turned around. Forty-four percent of the people were released into the country. By the way, that’s over a million so far. That goes away. Then they all get in.
What happens at that point? Those individuals are told that they can make a request for asylum, even though our statistics show 91 percent of the people that request asylum are actually coming for economic reasons, not actual true asylum—91 percent. Those individuals are released into the country. They’re told to be able to sign up for a hearing date and they can do their hearing anywhere they want in the United States. And they’re given a hearing date currently six years in the future—six years. So they’ll be traveling in our country anywhere they want to go for the next six years awaiting on their hearing.
And, by the way, if they don’t show up for their hearing, apparently there’s no plan to be able to actually go get them if they don’t show up for their hearing because right now ICE is not removing people. So they’re just released. And when they’re released into the country, they can immediately text friends back home and say,’ I’m in. Here’s what I said. Here’s where I crossed. Here’s the cartel member I paid on the southern border to be able to get me through. I’m in. Follow my same path. You’ll have the same result.’
What can be done about this?
Let me just highlight a couple of things and then we’ll talk about this more.
First thing’s first, don’t end Title 42. We still have a worldwide pandemic. Until there is a plan of what’s actually going to occur next on our southern border, don’t end Title 42. This is the time for the President and Aly Mayorkas and all the leadership to put up a pause and to say, ‘The chaos that happened last year was only 44 percent of the people crossing our southern border. We do not have physically the capability to be able to handle that many people. Do not cancel Title 42.’
Second thing, the Remain in Mexico policy.
The Remain in Mexico policy that actually started under President Trump that President Biden set aside and federal courts stepped back in and told this Administration, ‘You have to put back in place the Remain in Mexico policy,’ so they chose to do it. I’ve talked to this body before about what they did. The Biden Administration said, ‘Okay, we will follow the court order. We will reinstate the Remain in Mexico policy.’ They’ve reinstated that policy the last three months. They put up three different facilities. Actually now there’s four total facilities.
I visited one of them in Brownsville, Texas. That facility has six courtrooms, each courtroom set up to handle 22 people at a time, plus their attorneys, plus all the ancillary services. Six of those that they’ve got set up. They have individual meeting spaces set up for 120 people to meet individually with their attorney. So 120 rooms, six courtrooms that are all set up, all the ancillary, everything around it as well. And we’ve now got four different locations for that.
Of the half-a-million people that have illegally crossed our border in the time that they’ve set up the new MPP courtrooms, of the half-a-million people that have crossed illegally during that time period, so far the Biden Administration has pulled out 1,569 of them to evaluate if they would go into the Remain in Mexico policy. Of those, 893 they actually put in the system. Of those, they’ve actually had 494 of those that at some point came back and said, ‘We’ve changed our mind. We have a new way. We’ve talked to attorneys. We have a new way to be able to get out of it.’
We’re trying to get the actual number of people that have actually gone through the Remain in Mexico policy and that have actually qualified for it while we have four different locations, each of them with six courtrooms, 120 meeting spaces. But what we’re finding is really a handful of people actually have, quote-unquote, ‘qualified’ for the Remain in Mexico Policy of a half-a-million people during that time period.
The simple answer is the Biden Administration is spending millions and millions of taxpayer dollars setting up the MPP program that the court has required them to do, but they’ve made so many exceptions to it no one actually qualifies. So they’re trying to please the Court by saying, ‘We’re following your order,’ waste American tax dollars while we continue to see record numbers of people crossing the border. That’s a waste. If we’re going to stop this, keep Title 42 in place until you have a response to what you’re going to do instead. Actually run the MPP program as the court has instructed you to do rather than playing games with American tax dollars and with the system here. And I would also encourage you to put the Safe Third Country policy back in place.
The previous Administration had actually created a relationship with multiple other countries, so that as individuals traveled through other countries to get to the United States, they could make asylum requests in those locations. We understand because we know the law in this body. The law is very clear and the international standards on this. If you’re going to request asylum, you go to the next safe country and request asylum. If they’re traveling through five countries or they’re traveling literally across the globe to get to the United States from everywhere else to then request asylum, that’s not asylum. That’s economic opportunity.
And, by the way, don’t blame them for coming to the greatest country in the world to get economic opportunity, except that’s not asylum, and we all know it. So why don’t we actually treat it exactly as we all see it.
If you’d like to come to the greatest country in the world, wonderful. Go through the legal process of that.
We allow a million people a year to legally become citizens of the United States coming through the legal process. Do that. But for the billions of people that wake up every day wishing they were in the United States, I don’t blame you. But we welcome people when they come through legally in this process, and we do with open arms welcome people that come through legally.
There are ways to be able to address this, but my first concern today is to be able to speak to this Administration and to be able to say: the Title 42 piece is essential to maintain. Do not let go of this until you have a solution to what’s happening at the border or the chaos at the border will be even worse this summer than it was last summer, and it’s on you for not enforcing the border. I want to keep this conversation going in the days ahead.