By Paul LeBlanc and Daniella Diaz, CNN
Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin said Sunday that President Joe Biden should ask for an extension of Title 42, a public health authority that was invoked under former President Donald Trump and allows officials to expel migrants encountered at the US-Mexico border.
“I understand that the president needs to use every bit of power he has as an executive to find a way or ask for an extension,” the West Virginia senator told CBS News’ Margaret Brennan on “Face the Nation.”
“The president can basically, I think, ask for that extension. I think his administration is doing that or will do that. I sure hope they do. But we need an extension until we can get a viable answer for this,” Manchin said.
Title 42 — which has been heavily criticized by public health experts and immigrant advocates — has largely barred asylum at the US-Mexico border, marking an unprecedented departure from traditional protocol.
But while its origins were in the Trump administration, Title 42 has become a key tool for the Biden White House as it faces mass migration in the Western Hemisphere.
A federal appeals court on Friday rejected a bid by several Republican-led states to keep Title 42 in force, after a district court struck the controversial border policy down. The Biden administration is set to stop enforcing the rule Wednesday, though the GOP-led states had previously indicated that they’d seek the intervention of the Supreme Court should the appeals court rule against them.
The states argued in the case that allowing Title 42 to terminate would “cause an enormous disaster at the border” and that a big jump in the number of migrants “will necessarily increase the States’ law enforcement, education, and healthcare costs.”
In an interview on ABC’s “This Week” that aired Sunday, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas said migrants coming across the border untested for Covid-19 or any other illness pose a “public health risk” to the United States.
“Whether it’s Covid or some other issue, when you have people coming from across the globe, without knowing at all what their health status is, that almost by definition — is a public health risk,” Abbott said, while speaking about the end of Title 42. “There’s every reason to keep that in place.”
On Saturday, Mayor Oscar Leeser of El Paso, Texas, declared a state of emergency in response to the surge in migrants arriving in the community in recent days.
“If the courts do not intervene and put a halt to the removal of title 42, it’s going to be total chaos,” Abbott said.
Biden administration officials have been bracing for an influx of migrants when the authority lifts. The Department of Homeland Security’s six-pillar plan for the scheduled end of Title 42 includes surging resources to the border, increasing processing efficiency, imposing consequences for unlawful entry, bolstering nonprofit capacity, targeting smugglers and working with international partners.
Keisha Lance Bottoms, the White House senior adviser for public engagement, on Sunday defended the administration’s preparedness to deal with any influx at the southern border, telling CBS News, “What we are seeing happening is that many people are taking advantage of the fact that Title 42 may go away.”
“This week, we see many people exploiting migrants, saying, ‘Come now or you lose your ability to come at all.’ And that’s simply not the case,” she said on “Face the Nation.”
Lance Bottoms called on Congress to act on comprehensive immigration reform — something unlikely to happen before Title 42 is lifted or in the next Congress when Republicans will control the House.
Bottoms would not foreshadow what executive actions Biden could take, in lieu of any larger action from Congress.
Democratic Sen. Alex Padilla of California said Sunday the federal government should focus on funding humanitarian assistance upon the lifting of Title 42.
“The state of California is a prime example. More than a billion dollars of state funds going into humanity assistance for asylum seekers when they come to the United States. While they wait for their hearing, do they deserve some basic food and shelter and health screening? Absolutely. Frankly, the federal government should be investing more in that humane treatment of asylum seekers,” Padilla said on ABC’s “This Week.”
But Manchin stressed Sunday that “we have a crisis at the border. Everyone can see that. I think everyone realizes that something has to be done. [Title] 42 needs to be extended until we can get a really, truly immigration reform.”
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CNN’s Jasmine Wright, Aileen Graef and Michelle Watson contributed to this report.