Texas law would require eviction of Title 42 migrants until COVID-19 mandates, state of emergency is lifted

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FIRST ON TBEN: A bill to be introduced in the Texas legislature this week would keep Title 42 in effect at the state level until the federal public health emergency for COVID-19, as well as related mandates and travel warnings, are lifted — while the Lone Star State is struggling to cope with a historic wave of illegal migration.

The bill is being introduced by State Representative Brian Harrison, a former Trump-era Chief of Staff of Health and Human Services (HHS) who was in office in March 2020 when the administration implemented Title 42 — a public health order prohibiting the rapid deportation of migrants. to stop the spread of COVID-19.

The Biden administration tried to end the order last year but was blocked by a federal judge in response to a GOP lawsuit. It has since faced another lawsuit calling for an end to the evictions, saying the order is illegal. That lawsuit is before the Supreme Court and is likely to rule later this year.

Amid that uncertainty, there has been an ongoing wave of migration on the southern border, with more than 200,000 encounters over months, overwhelming areas like El Paso, Texas — which has declared a state of emergency. Federal officials have predicted that the number of migrant encounters could rise to 14,000 a day once the health rule ends.

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Migrants camp in El Paso, Texas on December 13, 2022.
(TBEN News/Jon Michael Raasch)

With the status of Title 42 unclear, Harrison’s bill would enshrine it for Texas using the state’s police powers. It would require non-U.S. citizens to enter through ports of entry, but requires the return of all illegal immigrants between ports of entry.

That would be in effect as long as the federal public health emergency is in place for COVID-19 and as long as some form of COVID-19 vaccination mandate remains in place. In addition, it would remain in effect as long as the State Department has a COVID-19 travel warning for all countries from which illegal immigrants originate.

“Biden is deliberately opening the southern border to traffickers, cartels and millions of unscreened illegal aliens, while at the same time keeping Americans under a federal COVID Public Health Emergency and tyrannical vaccine mandates,” Harrison said in a statement. “We can’t let it go both ways. Texas was hit first, hit the hardest, and we have to fight back with all the resources available as a sovereign state.”

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The bill marks the latest example of Texas seeking to take matters into its own hands when it comes to securing the border in the face of what Republican officials say is a lack of leadership by the federal government.

Texas has built its own wall on the border and has also transported migrants deeper inland — moves that have led to pushback from the liberal cities the state has sent them to. Gov. Greg Abbott also declared an “invasion” on the southern border in November, sending illegal migrants back to the border.

Ken Cuccinelli, a former Trump-era deputy DHS secretary who has urged states to declare invasions and has slammed Abbott for not using the statement to return migrants to Mexico himself, hailed Harrison’s bill as a important additional step.

“For the past two years of the Biden administration, we have asked Governor Abbott to declare an invasion and use his war powers to remove illegals back to Mexico and prevent the cartels from having operational control of our border. happened,” Cuccinelli, now with the Center for Renewing America, said in a statement. “We are encouraged that the Texas State Legislature and Representative Brian Harrison are using the powers they have to address this issue. to make sure Texans and Americans are safe.”

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The bill shows that action at the state level is similar to renewed legislative pressure from Republicans in the House of Representatives. There, after seizing control of the chamber, Republicans introduced a slew of bills to address the crisis on the southern border.

The Biden administration recently announced an expanded parole program and expanded Title 42 evictions, but has called on Congress to pass a sweeping immigration bill introduced on Biden’s first day in office.

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“That work will not be done unless and until Congress approves and funds a more comprehensive immigration plan that I proposed on day one,” he said in a White House speech earlier this month.

But Republicans have objected to the bill’s inclusion of a pathway to citizenship for millions of illegal immigrants already in the country.