Amid scrutiny from House lawmakers on Wednesday, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas deflected blame to public health officials for the Biden administration’s decision to end the Title 42 public health order.
While testifying in front of the House Appropriations Committee, Mayorkas claimed that the DHS has no power over Title 42, stating that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) holds “exclusive jurisdiction” over the policy.
“It is based on their expert assessment of the public health needs of the American public, and they decide whether the Title 42 authority remains necessary as a public health imperative based on the public health data that they obtained and their expert decision based on it,” Mayorkas claimed. “Our responsibility in the Department of Homeland Security is to implement the Title 42 authority of the CDC at our border and to implement it effectively and judiciously according to the law.”
The policy enacted by former President Donald Trump, which has been used to expel more than 1 million illegal immigrants at the southern border, gave border officials the authority to expel illegal immigrants attempting to enter from countries where a communicable disease, such as COVID-19, was present. It also required any immigrant seeking asylum to wait outside of the U.S. for their applications to be processed.
The CDC’s decision to end Title 42 on May 23 drew opposition from both sides of the aisle, as lawmakers raised concerns that ending the policy would lead to a surge in illegal immigration and crime at the southern border. The Department of Homeland Security has predicted that there will be as many as 18,000 additional border encounters per day once Title 42 has been lifted.
Following a lawsuit by several attorneys general from states that will be negatively impacted by the lifting of the public health order, a federal court issued a temporary restraining order against the Biden administration, preventing the CDC from ending Title 42. In its decision, the court stated that the federal government must first reach an agreement with the GOP-controlled border states prior to ending the policy.
The Department of Justice has announced that it will appeal the court’s ruling, but reporting from Politico on Wednesday revealed that administration officials intend to comply with the court order in the interim.
“If and when the court issues the TRO [temporary restraining order] the department is planning to comply with that order,” a senior administration official told reporters.
Mayorkas said that the DHS is preparing to receive a surge of illegal immigrants after Title 42 is ended, even claiming that the department has a plan to do so, despite the Biden administration’s disastrous record on illegal immigration thus far.
“We expect migration levels to increase as smugglers seek to take advantage of and profit from vulnerable migrants. We will continue to enforce our immigration laws,” he told lawmakers.
“After Title 42 is lifted, non-citizens will be processed pursuant to Title 8, which provides that individuals who cross the border without legal authorization are processed for removal and if unable to establish a legal basis to remain in the United States, promptly removed from the country,” Mayorkas continued.
The DHS secretary went on to outline “six pillars” of the department’s plan to “prepare for and manage the rise of non-citizen encounters.”
According to reporting from The Blaze, those pillars are: “The DHS will attempt to increase the number of resources at the border, in terms of personnel and equipment; process migrants quickly and efficiently to reduce strain; enforce the law against criminal migrants; partner with local governments and NGOs for humanitarian aid; target and disrupt transnational criminal organizations and human smugglers; and work with foreign governments to deter irregular migration in south and central America before it reaches the U.S.”