MORGANTOWN – Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., joined a group of 26 GOP senators Wednesday urging President Biden to keep in place a 2020 CDC order created to prevent illegal immigrants from bringing COVID-19 across the southern border.
Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., led a letter signed by Capito and 23 others and addressed to Biden urging him to keep the order in place, following media reports that he is planning to rescind it.
Under Title 24 of U.S. Code, they say, the CDC order allows the Department of Homeland Security to immediately expel aliens who would otherwise be held in congregate settings, including Border Patrol Stations and land Ports of Entry, rather than process them under its traditional Title 8 authorities.
But the White House has been under pressure to rescind the order. Some opponents have said it’s a thinly disguised Trump-era effort to curb immigration, period. A group of 105 organizations joined forces in late June to send a letter to Biden asking him to rescind the order.
They said, “Not only does the Title 42 policy violate U.S. refugee law and treaties, but it also endangers people seeking U.S. protection, with over 3,250 kidnappings, rapes, and other attacks on people expelled or blocked at the U.S.-Mexico border since you took office.”
A publication called Border Report said more than 112,000 of the 180,034 migrants apprehended in May were expelled to Mexico under Title 42.
But the senators wrote, “Ending this order will have a dire impact on the crisis already engulfing our southwestern border. We urge you in the strongest possible terms not to take this action. … COVID-19 is a highly transmissible virus, and limiting the number of individuals held in close proximity is a completely justified measure while the threat of COVID-19 persists. This is why federal immigration officials continue making robust use of the Title 42 authority.”
They cite a number similar to Border Reports, saying DHS expelled 112,302 migrants pursuant to the CDC order in May, a “dramatic increase” over the 20,895 migrants expelled the previous May. In contrast, 67,732 aliens encountered along the southwest land border were processed under DHS’s traditional Title 8 authorities in May, compared with 2,342 in May 2020.
They wrote, “If the CDC and the State Department believe that the threat of COVID-19 is actually increasing (and specifically in Mexico), it is contradictory for the Biden Administration to simultaneously revoke the public health authority used by immigration officials to slow the spread of COVID-19.
“Immigration facilities are overwhelmed,” they wrote. “Revoking the authority of officials to rapidly expel illegal migrants under Title 42 without a clear plan in place to handle the stress this population will place on the system and on border communities will further exacerbate the crisis at the southwestern border.”
At a press conference announcing the letter, Capito said, “I see the stresses and strains on the border patrol, on ICE, on the facilities.” She added that keeping the order under Title 42 will allow border agents to manage the huge flow somewhat, if not exactly well.
If we want to protect our citizens from COVID, she said, “Why wouldn’t we continue that on our southern border and protect our border agents, ICE and all of the law enforcement that are currently meeting the difficulties of the situation?”
While West Virginia isn’t a border state, she said, it’s affected by the flow of drugs, particularly fentanyl and methamphetamines, coming across the border. During the past year, the nation saw a 29% increase in overdose deaths while West Virginia saw a 49% rise.
The Biden administration should have foreseen the consequences of its open-border policies, she said, and this move will only make it worse.
The Dominion Post contacted the office of Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., which said he did not have a statement on the topic at this time.