In a 5-4 ruling last week, the U.S. Supreme Court blocked the lifting of a Trump-era Title 42 order on immigration, which left in place the federal directive that has been used to prevent the entry of millions of asylum seekers at the southern border.
The Biden administration promised to lift Title 42 — a public-health-based order implemented at the beginning of the COVID pandemic, which has been used by both the Trump and the Biden administrations to expel more than 2 million migrants on public health grounds. While the Biden administration outwardly sought to terminate the rule, it is actually breathing a grateful sigh of relief at the Supreme Court’s Title 42 extension. That’s because the administration hasn’t yet developed a plan to handle the mounting mass of migrants gathering along the U.S.-Mexican border and seeking asylum or other grounds to enter America.
The United States is the destination of choice for tens of thousands of people from Latin America who are fleeing violence, gangs, poverty, corruption and the depravity of their own governments. But we have no comprehensive plan in place to deal with the ever-growing immigration demands. And, even with Title 42 in place, the migration wave has overwhelmed border states.
The last time this country made a serious effort at immigration reform was in 2005, in a bill co-sponsored by Republican Sen. John McCain and Democratic Sen. Ted Kennedy. Their effort was supported by President George W. Bush. But the bill never got a vote in the Senate. Eighteen years later, as the demand for entry from the south has increased many-fold, there is still no answer. Everyone acknowledges the problem.
The most affected states in this mess are Republican-led. And the stunts from those states — like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis sending two planeloads of migrants to Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts in September and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott sending three busloads of migrants to Washington, D.C., on Christmas — are offensive. But the off-putting moves by Southern governors are driven by genuine frustration. Their states are unable to cope with the many challenges presented by rising migrant numbers, and there is no federal plan to help.
Nearly two years ago, President Joe Biden appointed Vice President Kamala Harris as his “border czar” to tackle the immigration crisis. We don’t know what the vice president has done regarding that assignment. But we do know that since Biden took office in 2021, we have seen increasing levels of migrant crossings, further inundating a border already heavily strained by irregular migration and an overwhelmed asylum-processing system. It is clear that the longer the problem is not addressed with a comprehensive plan, the worse it is going to get.
The Supreme Court bought the administration some additional time to get its immigration act together. We call on the administration to develop an updated, comprehensive and realistic immigration policy. If the vice president can’t lead that effort, then find someone who can. ■