FOX NEWS, KYLE MORRIS, TYLER OLSON, ANDREW MURRAY
Moderate Democrats are continuing to warn against the Biden administration’s decision to end Title 42 next month, speaking out about the consequential move and the ramifications at America’s southern border should there not be a well-crafted plan in place when the policy is lifted.
The remarks from members of Congress come after Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas outlined a plan this week to “secure our borders” and “build a safe, orderly, and humane immigration system.”
The Biden administration previously planned to end Title 42 on May 23, but a federal judge in Louisiana said Monday that he will grant a temporary restraining order at the request of Republicans to block the move from happening. The policy, used since March 2020 under both Presidents Trump and Biden, provided the ability for American officials to bar migrants from entering the country during a health crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic.
Speaking to Fox News on Thursday, Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J., a member of the Problem Solvers Caucus, reaffirmed his belief that a “clear strategy” should be in place before Title 42 is lifted and said he has heard from “across the spectrum” of the Democrat Party that there are concerns.
“I think we need to see a comprehensive plan… in place to secure our border,” Gottheimer said. “Right now, the state of emergency is still in place, so that addresses concerns, but as you know, there’s many people, Democrats, obviously along with Republicans, who agree with that. There’s plenty to do.”
“In the Republican Party, not everyone agrees with everything and in the Democrat Party, not everyone agrees with everything, right? I think there’s plenty of us who agree that we should have a comprehensive plan in place,” Gottheimer said of division among members of the party on the issue. “I’ve heard from across the spectrum of Democrats that people have concerns about making sure that we have a clear strategy and that’s what we want to hear from the secretary and from the administration … see that strategy so we can handle it, obviously, you know, if there’s a big influx that we’re prepared at the border.”
Echoing Gottheimer’s viewpoint, Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., who previously expressed reservations over the administration’s eagerness to lift Title 42, told reporters Tuesday that she has yet to see a “comprehensive plan” to address a surge in migrants at the border once the policy is lifted.
Cortez Masto said she believes the administration’s approach is the “wrong way to move forward.”
“What I’m concerned about, and is clear, is the fact that I don’t see a comprehensive plan,” she said. “That’s where we need to be, and I am looking forward to talking with DHS and HHS to try to get answers from them. Again, it goes back to this issue of ensuring that we are securing our borders, [while] at the same time making sure we are addressing the needs of the asylum seekers.”
Cortez Masto, who once served as the attorney general for Nevada and worked on problems related to the border, said she did not “hear a comprehensive plan on how they’re gonna address” issues like drug trafficking, human trafficking, or weapons trafficking.
The senior senator from Nevada said there is a need to address “the drug trafficking that goes across the border,” and that the “goal should always be to ensure we have a secure border.”
Similarly, Sen. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., said Wednesday in a conversation with reporters that the current plan put forward by the administration to handle a large influx of migrants at the border is not “sufficient” in addressing his concerns and that ending Title 42 abruptly would be a “big mistake.”
“We’ve got an arbitrary date that was kind of pulled out of the air that’s less than 30 days from now,” Kelly said. “And there is a lot that would have to be put in place for me to get to the point where I would be comfortable lifting Title 42.”
“Even if you have something on paper, you still have to implement that,” Kelly said, noting housing concerns for migrants arriving at the southern border. “And what I’ve even seen on paper is still lacking sufficient detail for me to be comfortable.”
Kelly, telling reporters that there is already a “crisis at the border,” said he wants the Biden administration to “come up with a plan that’s executable” and “has some contingency operations in here if things don’t go as expected.”
“I realize and agree that Title 42 should not be in place forever,” he said. “We still have a public health emergency. We don’t know what the fall is gonna be like. We want to make sure this is safe for migrants, including folks in border communities, and, you know, personnel and CBP. Until that happens, I think it would be a big mistake. I mean, we already have a crisis at the border. I don’t want to see chaos on top of the crisis.”
Speaking to Fox News Digital on Tuesday, Democratic Reps. Elissa Slotkin of Michigan and Abigail Spanberger of Virginia, both who have national defense backgrounds, expressed concern and insisted the administration’s decision to repeal the public health order would create “a significant problem” amid an expected surge in migrants to the border this spring.
“We both spent time in our prior lives trying to protect the country from homeland attacks,” Slotkin told Fox News. “And as someone who now sits on the Homeland Security Committee, it just felt like we were kind of leaving ourselves open to … a significant problem this spring.”
“When we heard that the administration was about to reverse Title 42 without presenting a plan, it just struck … both of us that it was just set up to fail, basically,” Slotkin added.
Likewise, Spanberger said the “reality is that we need to have a plan in place for when we lift it, regardless of what one thinks of the policy.”
“It has been in place for two years and we have staffing, we have infrastructure, we have resources positioned along the border that have been in place for two years related to the number of people who have been crossing the border with Title 42 in place,” Spanberger said. “When Title 42 is lifted, there will be a significant shift … and we have to be prepared for it.”
Some Democrats, however, including Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, are pleased to see the administration providing additional information on how it plans to combat border issues once the policy is lifted. In a statement to Fox News, Menendez, who will appear on Fox News Sunday this weekend, said Title 42 is not an “immigration tool.”
“I am glad the Administration is providing more information on how they plan to restore the enforcement of our immigration laws at the border,” Menendez said. “Title 42 is not an immigration tool, and it’s part of the problem, not the solution which is obvious given the confusion and chaos it has caused for DHS and migrants alike. There is no immigration law on the books that allows people to cross the border multiple times without consequence.”
A senior administration official told Politico on Tuesday that the White House will comply with the order from a federal judge halting preparations to repeal Title 42, which was issued Wednesday.
“If and when the court issues the TRO [temporary restraining order] the department is planning to comply with that order,” the official said. “It really makes no sense to us that the plaintiffs would demand, and the court would order, that [Department of Homeland Security] be stopped in its use in expedited removal, which is going to prevent us from adequately preparing for the aggressive applications for immigration law when public health expires.”