EXCLUSIVE: CDC COVID Order to Quickly Return Migrants to Mexico May End Within Two Weeks

Migrants return to Mexico from Texas in July 2019. (Emilio Espejel/AP)
Emilio Espejel/AP

Senior-level U.S. Customs and Border Protection sources report the Title 42 Centers for Disease Control emergency order will be vacated in as soon as one week, but a 7-day extension is under consideration.

The development comes as local border communities are struggling to cope with already increased arrivals and releases of asylum seekers.

The emergency order in question was issued by the CDC last March at the onset of pandemic lockdowns. It swiftly returned illegal border crossers back to Mexico with minimal, often 2-hour processing lags.

The CDC order was the last remaining measure implemented under the Trump administration to discourage illegal immigration during the pandemic.

The measure was critical to reduce overcrowding in Border Patrol facilities as it limited any relief under existing immigration laws, including asylum claims. The CDC order foreclosed the need for temporary or long-term detention of most migrants and worked to slow the possible spread of COVID-19 in tight quarters in conjunction with federal social distancing guidance applied more broadly.

With the CDC order gone, it would likely encourage more migrants to enter the United States illegally. They will be allowed to file claims for political asylum and be subject to immediate release as ICE detention facilities are already pushing full capacity.

According to a law enforcement sources in the Rio Grande Valley Sector, large groups of illegal border crossers numbering in the hundreds at a time surrendered to Border Patrol within the last 24 hours. Some smaller groups took advantage of the larger distractions and fled inland.

“Once Title 42 is no longer in place, we will undoubtedly see a huge increase in illegal crossings, far greater than we have seen in the past few weeks,” Chris Cabrera, Vice President of the National Border Patrol Council said. “Unfortunately, we may also see a significant increase in COVID-19 cases as Title 42 has aided in slowing the spread of the virus. Let’s not forget, we are still dealing with COVID-19.”

According to CBP, 26 employees have died as a result of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic. Roughly 7,965 tested positive and one-third of those are stationed in Texas.

A request for comment from CBP remains unanswered as of press time.

Randy Clark is a 32-year veteran of the United States Border Patrol.  Prior to his retirement, he served as the Division Chief for Law Enforcement Operations, directing operations for nine Border Patrol Stations within the Del Rio, Texas Sector.

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