EXCLUSIVE: Two frontline Democrats have teamed up to warn the Biden administration of a looming immigration crisis if border agents no longer have a Trump-era tool to expel migrants from the country.
Democratic Reps. Elissa Slotkin of Michigan and Abigail Spanberger of Virginia wrote a letter to the Biden Administration urging the White House to delay lifting the Title 42 public health order that has been used to expel a majority of migrants at the border during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Given our backgrounds in national security, we know the Executive Branch is accustomed to planning for contingencies, and it is for this reason that we submit to you the below requests for actions to be taken before the administration lifts the Title 42 order, so that that we prevent a humanitarian and security crisis, “the lawmakers wrote in a letter obtained first by Fox News.
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The letter from Slotkin and Spanberger adds to the growing chorus of moderate Democrats pounding on the White House ahead of the midterm elections to keep Title 42 in place or risk overwhelming already strained border agents. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) estimates 18,000 more migrants will be processed in the US each day – compared to more than 7,000 currently – if Title 42 is lifted as planned next month, the lawmakers note.
“We are concerned about how DHS will contend with an increase of people – including children and families – that will more than triple the department’s capacity without ample and robust planning,” they wrote. “And while the administration gave itself two months to prepare, what has been shared with us to date seems like too little, too late – especially when the removal of Title 42 will occur at the same time that a spike in seasonal migration occurs.”
Slotkin is a former CIA analyst and Department of Defense official. Spanberger is a former postal inspector and CIA officer. Slotkin and Spanberger both entered Congress in 2019 by flipping red seats and they have been prime targets for Republicans ever since in their bid to retake the House.
Pollsters recently told Fox News that Title 42 fallout is poised to make an already rough midterm cycle even worse for Democrats. More disorder at the border will hurt Democrats already bogged down by high inflation and President Biden’s sagging approval ratings, they say.
Citing an individual with knowledge of internal discussions, Axios reported Tuesday that the White House is mulling whether to continue with the repeal of Title 42 next month amid blowback from members of Biden’s own party.
Slotkin and Spanberger called on the Biden administration to take three steps to mitigate the crisis.
First, delay the planned May 23 lifting of Title 42 until there is a plan to deal with a “surge” of migrants at the border. Second, institute in-country immigration processing in Central America so that migrants won’t pay human smugglers to travel more than 1,000 miles to the southern border. And finally, plan for continued migration surges with a “swift, coordinated response.”
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They addressed their April 19 letter to DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Susan Rice, Biden’s domestic policy adviser.
“At this point, generations of Democrats and Republicans in the White House and in Congress have failed to provide the laws and policies needed to properly handle immigration in this country,” the lawmakers wrote. “While you inherited this problem, it is now your responsibility – with necessary help from Congress – to address our broken immigration system.”
The Title 42 order was implemented in March 2020 under former President Donald Trump’s administration as a way to keep COVID-19 outside American borders. President Biden’s administration kept it in place amid warnings rescinding it could only worsen the border crisis. But the CDC recently announced that Title 42 expulsions will end May 23 because the public health order is “no longer necessary.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said this week that it is “important to remember” that Title 42 “is not an immigration authority” or “an immigration plan.”
“There is no question we have a broken immigration system,” Psaki said Monday. “There’s more we need to do. We’ve been saying that from the first day the president took office, and anyone who wants to work on that, Democrats, Republicans, anyone, how we can put smarter security in place, how we can have an asylum processing system that works, we would love to do that. ”
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Rescinding Title 42 was cheered by progressives. Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., Said Title 42 was “cruel and discriminatory” by expelling more than 1.7 million migrants who were seeking refuge in the US from dire situations.
But a growing number of Democratic senators and candidates have been urging the Biden Administration to reconsider until there is a plan in place to deal with the migrant surge, including Sens. Mark Kelly of Arizona, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, Jon Tester of Montana, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, Michael Bennet of Colorado, Raphael Warnock of Georgia, Gary Peters of Michigan, Chris Coons of Delaware, Catherine of Nevada, Ohio Senate candidate Tim Ryan and Pennsylvania Senate candidate John Fetterman.
Fox News’ Caroline McKee and Brooke Singman contributed to this report.