Title 42 is a provision of U.S. immigration law that allows federal health authorities to deny asylum to refugees who might increase the spread of infectious diseases. The Biden administration exempted “unaccompanied minors” from being sent home under Title 42 on its very first day, when Mexico decided, under a new law, not to take them back. On February 2, 2021, BuzzFeed News reporter Hamed Aleaziz filed what was probably the earliest known report of this policy reversal. In response to a direct inquiry from Aleaziz, a White House spokesperson confirmed the policy for the first time, stating that the new administration policy “is not to expel unaccompanied children who arrive at our borders.”
“The president’s approach is to deal with immigration comprehensively, fairly and humanely,” the spokesperson said, using what amounted to encrypted code words. “The Border Patrol will continue to transfer unaccompanied children to the HHS Office of Refugee Resettlement so they may be properly cared for in appropriate shelters, consistent with their best interest.”
In so doing, the administration had returned to a system of powerful incentives that proved irresistible. Not only would “unaccompanied” minors of any age under 18 now become exempt from Covid-19 expulsion, but they would be released as quickly as possible to custodians in the American interior at government expense.
How did the first trickle become a swell and then a historic flood?