Texas lawmakers from both parties urged the Biden administration on Sunday to provide more support in the days leading up to this week’s scheduled end of a Trump-era policy that had allowed for widespread expulsions of people seeking asylum.
“They’ve gotta have something in place,” Rep. Henry Cuellar, a Democrat who represents a border area in Texas, said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” of the Biden administration’s immigration plans for the end of the Title 42 policy. “With all due respect, I’ve looked at that plan. … It hasn’t worked.”
The imminent expiration of Title 42 on Wednesday has prompted concern of a surge of arrivals at the southern border, which has already been under strain from the volume of people trying to enter. Biden administration officials have scrambled to figure out how to replace the policy, which the Trump administration used more than 2 million times to expel migrants seeking asylum.
Keisha Lance Bottoms, former mayor of Atlanta and an adviser to President Joe Biden, said Sunday on “Face the Nation” that the administration needed additional funds from Congress.
“The need for Republicans in Congress to say what they won’t do has now been removed,” Bottoms said. “Now, tell us what you will do to work with the president to make sure that we have comprehensive immigration reform.”
Rep. Tony Gonzales (R-Texas) agreed that funding was “absolutely needed,” but said that wasn’t enough.
“But throwing money at a problem does not solve a problem,” he said, also on “Face the Nation.”
Another Texas Republican, Rep. Chip Roy, went further, accusing Democrats of “using the Hispanic community” as they processed migrants. But he said he’d also blame Senate Republicans if they voted in agreement with Democrats without demanding the Biden administration do more to secure the border — something that he asserted Democrats had no interest in doing.
“We’ve been running on this being the border and Biden border crisis. This is the McConnell Republican border crisis if we give them more money this week without demanding that they secure the border,” Roy said on “Fox News Sunday,” referring to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Title 42 is a section of the 1944 Public Health Service Act that allows the U.S. government to restrict immigration during public health emergencies. Faced with the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, the Trump administration made use of Title 42 to expedite the return of migrants who arrived at the border with Mexico. That policy has remained in place until now.
Biden’s Justice Department pushed for the end of Title 42 and has made efforts to speed up processing for asylum seekers. But, earlier this month, the administration appealed a judge’s ruling challenging the legality of the expulsion policy — putting them in a position of defending a strategy they’d long publicly criticized, even as they grappled with the implications of its possible termination. A group of Republican-led states on Friday lost an effort in a federal appeals court to delay the end of the policy, and they could go to the Supreme Court next.
Immigration advocates have argued the policy has dubious health benefits, particularly given the ebb and flow of the pandemic and loosening of many other restrictions across the last two years. Instead, they say it’s being used improperly to expel people at the border, without hearings.
Cuellar expressed concern that the Biden administration’s plan for ending Title 42 deals primarily with processing rather than overall policy for asylum seekers, and that he didn’t know exactly when it would take effect.
While he said he was “not asking for a photo-opp,” Cuellar also criticized Biden for not visiting the southern border, which he said would be an important message for both border enforcement and border communities.
“A leader has to show images of being up there in the front,” Cuellar said.
Suggesting that the Obama administration had managed the border in a better way, Cuellar added of Biden: « I think his advisers are doing a disservice to him.”
The administration may turn to a so-called transit ban in lieu of Title 42, POLITICO previously reported. Such a policy would require asylum seekers to have been turned away by another country before applying for asylum in the U.S. A transit ban was previously championed by Stephen Miller, a Trump administration official who was highly conservative on immigration.
Bottoms on Sunday defended Biden’s decision to not visit the southern border so far in his presidency, characterizing presidential travel as more disruptive and complicated than typical travel.
“When the president travels, it’s not like you or I jumping on an airplane, getting off and going to our destination. Everything comes to a halt,” she told host Margaret Brennan.
Echoing other Democrats who say that political and economic crises in Central America are the true cause of surges in immigration, Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-Texas) faulted the federal government for focusing only on deterrence, and she called on Congress to legislate with underlying issues such as poverty in mind — rather than just the border itself.
“We have to be smarter about this and begin looking at the bigger picture or things will get worse, regardless of who’s in the White House, but depending on who’s in Congress,” Escobar said on “Fox News Sunday.”
Lawmakers from other states also chimed in as well.
As he urged Biden to use all possible executive power to extend Title 42, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) suggested that Congress could also mandate that the order be extended by law, and put a bill on the president’s desk.
“It seems like we can manage under a crisis in a bipartisan way,” Manchin said.
Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) said he believes Biden and his team will figure out the current immigration pressures in the short term, and that there’s a chance for more comprehensive changes in the next Congress.
“Maybe with this new Republican House and Democratic Senate, we finally get serious about immigration reform and quit demagoguing this issue by pointing fingers,” Brown said.