Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak is joining a handful of moderate Democrats pushing back on President Joe Biden’s plan to roll back a Trump-era immigration policy that prevented asylum-seekers from entering the U.S.
Late Wednesday, Sisolak sent a letter to Biden warning that rolling back Title 42 without a detailed plan in place would “create chaos” and spark a humanitarian crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued Title 42 in March 2020 in response to the coronavirus outbreak. Last week, they announced they would lift restrictions on May 23, saying it is no longer needed because of improving pandemic conditions.
A majority of Democrats have pushed the Biden administration to rescind Title 42 after he pledged to reverse the Trump-era policy, but now Sisolak is joining Nevada’s Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto and a handful of other moderate Democrats who say reversing the rule would result in a crisis at the border.
“To be clear: asylum seekers and migrants hoping to legally immigrate to the United States should be afforded every proper opportunity to do so, and as COVID-19 enters the endemic stage with vaccines and testing readily available, it is time to reevaluate the public health measures in place,” Sisolak wrote.
“However, lifting Title 42 without a measured, comprehensive plan would create chaos at our border and make it more onerous for families attempting to immigrate legally. Our country cannot undergo another humanitarian crisis at the U.S – Mexico border. Rolling back this policy without a comprehensive mitigation plan in place should not be our path forward” the governor continued.
On Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki ruled out the possibility of the Biden administration delaying the removal of Title 42 next month.
Title 42 has allowed immigration officials to bypass laws that require the government to interview asylum-seekers for eligibility before being deported, an action immigration advocates and many congressional Democrats argue is inhumane.
Critics of Biden’s decision to repeal Title 42 say a sudden influx of migrants would strain detention facilities and pose national security risks without a detailed plan laid out.
The Department of Homeland Security addressed those concerns by pledging to increase personnel and resources, including new migrant processing facilities along the border to handle the expected increase in migration.
Improved pandemic conditions have also allowed the Biden administration to exempt Ukrainian refugees from Title 42 restrictions so they can seek asylum in the U.S. after fleeing the recent war with Russia.
But advocates for migrants have argued the exemption for Ukrainians showed discriminatory treatment of asylum-seekers based on their countries of origin, which is barred under international refugee law.
Alissa Cooley, an immigration lawyer at the UNLV Immigration Clinic, said Title 42 should be lifted in light of a majority of restrictions in the U.S. being lifted – including in Nevada, which dropped its mask mandate in February.
“If it’s safe enough for us within the U.S., why do we have a different standard for people seeking asylum–an international human right–at the border? Also, the government has made an exception for Ukrainian migrants seeking asylum at the border. We should really ask ourselves why that is and if the continued implementation of [Title] 42 is really just a thinly veiled attempt to keep out people of color,” Cooley said.
Immigration advocates in Nevada argue that the best solution to border safety concerns is comprehensive immigration reform to repair and rebuild the U.S. immigration system in a fair and humane manner.
Sisolak noted Nevada is home to about 4,000 Temporary Protected Status holders, 12,000 Dreamers, and more than 5,000 people impacted by a green card backlog.
“I urge the administration to prioritize a pathway to citizenship that supports families and our economy without putting unnecessary burdens on our immigration system,” Sisolak said.
The Nevada Immigrant Coalition released a statement after Sisolak sent his letter, urging the Biden administration to follow through and revoke Title 42, adding that the policy has disproportionately affected Haitian and other Black migrants at the border.
“The Nevada Immigrant Coalition strongly urges our Nevada Congressional Delegation to vote NO on any amendments to the COVID-19 relief bill, or stand alone bills, that will tie the hands of the Biden Administration and block access to asylum at the border by keeping Title 42 in place,” the coalition said in a statement.
Updated with a statement from the Nevada Immigrant Coalition.
Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.