US lifts immigration restrictions related to pandemic

Washington | The United States announced on Friday the expected lifting of immigration restrictions put in place at the start of the pandemic, a measure that will increase the arrival of migrants at the border with Mexico, which has already reached a historic level.

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Homeland Security Minister Alejandro Mallorcas said in a statement that the so-called “Address 42” system, which for two years has allowed the immediate expulsion of migrants arrested at the border, will be lifted on May 23.

The decision was made by health authorities “after considering current public health conditions and the increased availability of tools to combat COVID-19,” according to a statement from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

She was immediately criticized by elected Republicans, who accused President Joe Biden’s administration of creating a “humanitarian disaster” at the border.

Senator Mitt Romney wrote on Twitter, “Worst news for the country today: The Biden administration will let in twice as many immigrants + in an irregular situation +,” while arguing that it was also his party’s “best news policy” a few months before the midterm elections.

Moderate Democratic Senator Joe Manchin also denounced the “terrifying decision.” “We are absolutely not prepared to deal with this influx,” he said.

Minister Mayorcas acknowledged that the measure ran the risk of encouraging clandestine transit.

“We know that smugglers will spread false information to take advantage of vulnerable migrants,” he said. But “let’s be clear: those who do not have a legal basis to remain in the United States will be deported.”

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‘No justification’

According to the minister, the government has developed a “strategy to manage” the expected increase.

He said that six hundred agents have already been redeployed to the border to process arrivals’ files, assess their asylum claims and expel those who do not qualify quickly. Further increases in staffing will occur “as needed”.

Immigration flows, which had fallen sharply at the beginning of the pandemic, began to increase again before Joe Biden took office a year ago, but they clearly jumped after that: US border guards made two million arrests of immigrants at the southern border in 2021, a historic record .

Under the rules adopted to combat COVID-19, all adults and most families were immediately returned to Mexico, without the possibility of applying for asylum on US soil. Only unaccompanied minors can stay in the United States.

So immigrant rights advocates, who have been calling for a return to normality for months, have welcomed the imminent end of “Rule 42”. “Using health laws as an alternative to immigration policy has never been justified,” Lee Gelernt of the ACLU told me.

However, they called for an overhaul of the asylum system, in order to ensure rapid and “humane” care for people fleeing persecution in their country.

During his campaign, Joe Biden had promised sweeping immigration reform, but all of his bills are stuck in Congress.

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