Arizona's congressional delegation is divided on the prospect of repealing Title 42, a controversial Trump-era policy that limits immigration during public health crises.
Title 42 is a clause under the Public Health Services Law that was designed to limit immigration to the United States if there was a threat of a communicable disease being spread by heightened immigration numbers.
Title 42 was put into place in 2020 during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic by then-President Donald Trump's administration in an attempt to curb the number of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. Now that cases have begun to ease, many lawmakers and advocates are pushing to repeal Title 42 and revert back to pre-pandemic border policies.
Sens. Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly, both Arizona Democrats, are urging President Joe Biden to keep Title 42 in place for now, saying in a letter that before it can be repealed, “secure, orderly and humane” processes are needed to ensure that border communities are not overwhelmed by high and sudden immigration numbers.
In a written statement to The Arizona Republic, Rep. Greg Stanton, D-Ariz., said that “Congress has provided record funding for the Department of Homeland Security — for more staff, modern security technology, processing centers, and more. It’s time for the administration to take the issue more seriously and put forth a plan of action to use these funds effectively and better secure our border.”
Rep. Raúl Grijalva, D-Ariz., said in a written statement to The Republic that he has been “for repeal from the moment that the Biden Administration came into office” and that he believes that the money for additional personnel, resources and the necessary workforce to execute a productive immigration plan post-repeal exists within Biden's Build Back Better bill.
“Title 42 was an aberration during a pandemic and doesn’t run standard to what the established refugee and asylum laws and regulations are. It’s not like you’re undoing something that was always there, it’s undoing a temporary measure,” Grijalva said.
Rep. Tom O’Halleran, D-Ariz., told The Republic that he agrees with Sinema and Kelly and believes there needs to be a more long-term solution.
"I have long called for comprehensive immigration reform — investments in 21st century border technology, protections for DREAMers, and policies that ensure the safety of families on both sides of our southern border. That is why I echo our senators in supporting Title 42 in its current form until the administration proposes a more concrete plan,” O’Halleran said. “Any changes to our current process must be robustly detailed, and developed in consultation with local leaders, community advocates, and governmental entities in border states like Arizona."
Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., said in a written statement to The Republic that he does not support the repeal of Title 42, claiming that Biden and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas "created the border crisis by refusing to enforce our immigration laws and secure the border."
“Ending Title 42 will only fuel the current crisis to catastrophic proportions,” Biggs said. “Terminating Title 42 will jeopardize the nation’s public health, public safety, and border security.”
Lifting the order would attract a new wave of migrants "hoping to exploit Joe Biden’s open-border agenda," Biggs continued, and that will create a new crisis as more migrants are released in U.S. communities.
In a statement to The Republic, Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz., said: "The U.S. has made tremendous progress to combat COVID-19 since President Trump first instituted Title 42 at the beginning of the pandemic, and it’s time to resume processing asylum cases.
"Asylum seekers deserve to have their cases heard in a way that protects the health and safety of those in the U.S. and those seeking asylum," Gallego said. "But rescinding Title 42 is not a comprehensive solution, and real progress means reforming our immigration system with that treats immigrants and asylum seekers humanely, keeps families together, secures our border, and grows our economy.”
The Republic's requests for comment from Reps. Ann Kirkpatrick, D-Ariz., Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., David Schweikert, R-Ariz., and Debbie Lesko, R-Ariz., were not successful.