President Biden is coming under increasing pressure to abandon a Trump-era immigration rule that has sealed off the United States to most migrants during the pandemic, with human rights officials and two of the administration’s own medical consultants saying it endangers vulnerable families.
The policy, known as Title 42, allows border agents to turn away migrants without giving them a chance to apply for protections in the United States. White House officials declined to comment on the record, but a government official said the White House position was that the rule was necessary given the many Americans who had not been fully vaccinated. Like the Trump administration, the Biden administration has defended the policy as a “public health directive” rather than an immigration tool.
On Monday, two physicians who work as consultants for the Department of Homeland Security sent a letter to members of Congress saying the rule had the “perverse impact” of encouraging parents to send their children to cross the border alone, since Mr. Biden has chosen not to immediately turn away minors. Most single adults and many migrants traveling together as families are immediately turned back.
The complaint came days after Filippo Grandi, the United Nations’ high commissioner for refugees, who rarely criticizes U.S. immigration policy, said the expulsions have had “serious humanitarian consequences.”
The Biden administration’s embrace of Title 42 highlights a difficult balancing act for the president: how to make good on his pledge to have a more compassionate approach to migrants fleeing poverty and persecution while managing a surge of people who want to come to the United States. The topic also leaves Mr. Biden open to political attacks from Republicans and moderate Democrats who say he risks losing control of the border.