STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
The pandemic rule known as Title 42 expires next month. This rule always had an official purpose a little different from its practical effect.
MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
The purpose was to protect the United States from COVID. Obviously that didn't work out. But the effect was to make it easier for the U.S. to expel migrants. Since 2020, officials have used the policy to remove more than 2 million people who crossed the border. Now as it goes away, President Biden's administration wants to prevent more people from arriving illegally. So the U.S. plans a mix of new rules.
INSKEEP: Which NPR's Joel Rose is covering.
Joel, good morning.
JOEL ROSE, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.
INSKEEP: What's the replacement policy or set of policies here?
ROSE: It's a combination of expanded legal pathways and tough new enforcement measures at the border, including more deportations for migrants who cross the border illegally. The Biden administration is trying to send the message that the border is not open just because Title 42, as you say, is set to end next month.
INSKEEP: Which is - yeah - happening May 11, if I'm not mistaken. So what is the administration saying they intend that mixture of policies to be?
ROSE: Well, one of the big announcements that we got yesterday is that the U.S. is going to stand up new migrant processing centers in Latin America, starting in Guatemala and Colombia. And these are places where migrants can learn if they qualify for legal pathways to the U.S., either as refugees or under some other expanding pathways that the administration is going to roll out.
And we also learned more yesterday about the enforcement end of all this. The administration says it's going to use what's called expedited removal under existing U.S. immigration law to quickly deport migrants who do not have valid asylum claims. And the administration says it is pushing ahead with a controversial rule that would make it harder to get asylum if you've crossed the border illegally after passing through Mexico or another country.
INSKEEP: OK. So they're saying we will encourage you in certain ways to seek a legal pathway, but we're going to be tougher on you if you try to cross illegally. Why would that latter part be controversial?
ROSE: Well, immigrant advocates say the second part is similar to an asylum policy that the Trump administration proposed, although the Biden White House disputes that. In general, the reaction from immigrant advocates has been pretty mixed to this announcement. There was a lot of support for the idea of adding these new refugee processing centers, but there's also a lot of disappointment that the administration is moving forward with these restrictions on asylum. Here's Eleanor Acer of the group Human Rights First on a call yesterday with reporters.
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ELEANOR ACER: Refugee resettlement or other regular pathways should never be used to justify denials of access to asylum. Seeking asylum is a fundamental human right and legal under both U.S. and international law.
ROSE: And immigrant advocates have made it clear that they are going to try to block this asylum rule in court when it goes forward.
INSKEEP: Needless to say, an irony here that immigrant advocates would accuse the administration of being too harsh, too tough, kicking out too many people, since Republican critics of the administration constantly say the opposite.
ROSE: Yeah, and we heard more of that in reaction to this plan. I mean, Republicans and immigration hardliners were already critical of the administration's policies. They say that's encouraged the record number of migrants arriving at the border. Here's Mark Green, the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, a Republican from Tennessee, speaking yesterday at a press conference.
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MARK GREEN: The more you incentivize people, the bigger the wave will be. And all the processing centers do is provide more incentive. Oh, the door's even more open.
INSKEEP: OK. Bottom line, will the administration be able to prevent that big wave, to use Green's phrase?
ROSE: I think in the short run, there's wide agreement, even from the administration, that we're going to see a jump in the number of migrants crossing the border. I mean, hundreds of thousands of people in the hemisphere have left their homes, fleeing from violence, poverty and political destabilization. Many of them are now in towns and cities along the U.S.-Mexico border, and they're growing increasingly desperate to seek asylum.
INSKEEP: NPR's Joel Rose.
Thanks so much.
ROSE: You bet.
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