C.D.C. Confirms It Will Lift Public Health Order Restricting Immigration

The agency cited “current public health conditions and an increased availability of tools to fight Covid-19” as grounds for returning in late May to prepandemic policies for admitting migrants.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced on Friday that it would lift an emergency public health order that had restricted immigration at U.S. land borders since the beginning of the pandemic, citing “current public health conditions and an increased availability of tools to fight Covid-19.”

Federal officials expect the policy change, which will go into effect on May 23, to draw thousands more migrants to the southwestern border every day, in addition to the already high number of people who have been arriving over the past year from Latin America and across the globe. Republicans, who have described the border situation as out of control under President Biden, immediately condemned the C.D.C.’s decision. The order has been used to expel migrants about 1.7 million times over the past two years.

“I hereby determine that the danger of further introduction, transmission or spread of Covid-19 into the United States from covered noncitizens, as defined in the August order, has ceased to be a serious danger to the public health,” Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, the C.D.C. director, wrote in her justification for ending the policy. She also said that she could issue a new order in the future “based on new findings, as dictated by public health needs.”

The order, known as Title 42, gives officials the authority to turn away migrants at the border, including those seeking asylum. The process takes about 15 minutes, a factor that has helped the Border Patrol manage the sometimes overwhelming number of undocumented migrants gathering at the border.

Without the order in place, stations will be more overcrowded and backed up while officials go through the typical screening process, which can take more than an hour per person. Under the normal process, migrants who cannot provide a legal reason for why they are in the United States are detained until they are deported. Those who request asylum are typically released, often with monitoring devices, while they away court dates.

The continuation of the public health order over the past two years thrust the typically apolitical C.D.C. into the heated immigration debate, even as the Biden administration has argued the order is not being used to manage illegal migration.

The agency had been under growing pressure from Democratic lawmakers, including Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader, to not only end the rule but also provide justification for why it was necessary.

Public health experts have questioned the order’s value in containing the coronavirus, especially at this point in the pandemic.

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Eileen Sullivan