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Sen. Capito joins colleagues in sending letter to President Biden regarding public health at the southern border

Published: Jul. 15, 2021 at 4:39 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, W.Va (WDTV) - U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito joined 27 of her Republican colleagues on Thursday in sending a letter asking President Biden not revoke Title 42.

Under Title 42, the government issued a public health order that allows immigration officials to expel illegal immigrants and slow the spread of COVID-19 at the border. Media reports indicate the Biden administration is planning to end this authority by the end of July.

The letter was led by led by Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyo.).

In a letter to President Biden, the senators stated that the immigration facilities are overcrowded and overwhelmed, and that ending Title 42 would further exacerbate the crisis at the southern border.

In addition to Senators Capito and Barrasso, the following senators also signed onto the letter: Senators Mike Braun (R-Ind.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), James Lankford (R-Okla.), Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), Roger Marshall (R-Kan.), Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), James Risch (R-Idaho), Rick Scott (R-Fla.), Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), John Thune (R-S.D.), and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.).

The letter reads:

Dear Mr. President,

The COVID-19 pandemic is the most significant public health crisis the United States has faced in our lifetime. Recent reports indicate the administration is considering immediately terminating the public health authority granted to immigration officials under Sections 362 and 365 of the Public Health Service (PHS) Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 265, 268. 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.

On March 20, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued an order pursuant to its public health authority under Title 42. This order allows the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) 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.

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.

According to the most recent data, DHS expelled 112,302 migrants encountered along the southwest land border pursuant to the CDC Order in May 2021. This constitutes a dramatic increase over the 20,895 migrants expelled along the southwest land border 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 2021, compared with 2,342 in May 2020.

Immigration facilities are overwhelmed. 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.

Furthermore, your administration continues warning the American public about the dangers posed by the variants of COVID-19. Recently, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, made clear, “This rapid rise is troubling.” She went on to state that, “The delta variant is surging in pockets of the country.”

The Department of State also recently issued an advisory regarding travel to Mexico—the country through which the vast majority of migrants affected by the CDC Order pass—stating, “Do not travel to Mexico due to COVID-19.” 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.

The administration’s first priority must be to protect the American homeland. Allowing political considerations to overrule the clear public health threat created by the spread of COVID-19 at the border is reckless and irresponsible.

We request the administration retain the order under 42 U.S.C. §§ 265 and 268 until (1) the threat of COVID-19 variants is significantly reduced, (2) the administration has consulted with State, local, and tribal governments regarding any modification to this authority, and (3) policies have been implemented to bring the situation along the southwest land border under control and ensure that DHS and Office of Refugee Resettlement facilities will not be overwhelmed by sudden, large increases in the migrant population.

Thank you for your consideration of this request.

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