Trump CDC official: No ‘public health reason’ for border closure, Title 42

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) officials felt evidence “did not support” former President Trump’s decision to close the border and that the move “wasn’t based on a public health assessment at the time,” the CDC’s Trump-era deputy director told congressional investigators.

Anne Schuchat’s comments, released Friday as part of a congressional select committee review of the U.S.’s coronavirus response, confirms reporting that CDC officials saw little public health rationale for Title 42, which allows for swift expulsion at the border and denies migrants the chance to seek asylum.

The Biden administration has retained the policy and continues to describe Title 42 as a public health measure.

Schuchat, a longtime public health official who also served a few months into the Biden administration, said “no” the order was not necessary to prevent the spread of coronavirus in the U.S. at the time.

“The bulk of the evidence at that time did not support this policy proposal,” she said, adding that the goal is to pursue “the least restrictive means possible to protect public health.”

“At that time, there was a lot more disease in the U.S. than south of the border,” she said, adding at another point, “The focus on reducing spread on our side of the border was critically needed.”

Reporting from The Associated Press found that it was former Vice President Mike Pence who pressured then-CDC director Robert Redfield to sign the order.

Schuchat was also asked about the refusal of Martin Cetron, the agency’s head of the Division of Migration and Quarantine, to sign the Title 42 order.

“His view was that the facts on the ground didn’t call for this from a public health reason, and that the decision wasn’t being made based on criteria for quarantine. It may have been initiated for other purposes,” she said. “So I don’t think he was comfortable using his authority to do that because it didn’t meet his careful review of what the criteria are.”

The Biden administration is facing litigation over Title 42 and has refused to lift the measure even as it has otherwise opened the U.S. border with Mexico to vaccinated travelers.

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Rebecca Beitsch