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What was Title 42? Without Title 42, what will the US-Mexico border look like? Will the border be overrun with migrants?
Title 42 was a controversial, pandemic-era public health order that banned migrants from claiming asylum at the US-Mexico border. It also allowed US agents to rapidly expel them from the country, claiming a risk to public health.
Continue reading to learn how effective Title 42 was and what its expiration means for the future.
The End of Title 42
On May 11, Title 42 expired. The controversial, pandemic-era public health order, established by former president Donald Trump and extended by President Joe Biden, barred migrants from claiming asylum at the US-Mexico border and allowed US agents to rapidly expel them from the country, claiming risks to public health.
Some object to letting the law lapse, saying that without it, our borders will be overrun with immigrants seeking asylum. But others say this is unlikely—Title 42 wasn’t very effective at stopping immigration in the first place, and now that it’s gone, the US can implement more effective policies.
Economists and business leaders take a different tack: They say we shouldn’t be so focused on keeping immigrants out in the first place, and that attention given to the efficacy of Title 42 distracts from the larger issue of how to better integrate migrants into the labor force. They argue that immigrants play a crucial role in keeping the American economy growing, and a better use of our government’s time would be to figure out how to allow willing workers to legally work.
With Title 42 Gone, Will Immigration Rates Soar?
Though many are concerned that immigration will surge now that Title 42 has ended, others note that the law didn’t have much of an effect on immigration rates anyway: Border-crossing attempts were already at a near-record high—in part because the US economy has been strong, thus tempting people in search of work, and in part because Title 42 established no penalties for unauthorized crossings, so people who were deported often turned around and immediately tried again.
Further, the expiration of Title 42 doesn’t necessarily mean easier entry into the country:
- The US will now revert to following Title 8, the longer-standing law governing immigration that carries harsher penalties for repeated unauthorized attempts at entry—up to and including felony charges.
- The government is also increasing eligibility standards that asylum seekers must meet in order to qualify.
US officials say it’s too early to tell how migration patterns might change, but so far, predictions of a surge haven’t come to pass. In fact, in the days following the law’s expiration, the number of migrants processed by border agents dropped by half—from 10,000 a day to 5,000. Some experts suggest that migrants might indeed be reconsidering strategies to enter the US due to Title 8’s penalties.
Immigration and the US Economy
Many business leaders are hoping that the demise of Title 42 will lead to improved immigration policies and ultimately, more legal immigrants, in hopes of resolving the ongoing labor shortage that began during the pandemic and continues to this day. Tighter immigration policies, which coincided with increased retirement rates, have resulted in significantly higher rates of unfilled jobs—particularly in sectors more dependent on foreign labor, such as hospitality and construction—making it difficult for many organizations to operate at full capacity.
These experts note that immigrants fill a needed demand for workers as the percentage of native-born workers continues to shrink not only because of increased retirements but also because of a smaller working-age population, largely due to Covid deaths, illness, or caretaking demands. Further, in the long run, birth rates in the US are continually decreasing, portending even smaller working populations in the future.
- In 2022, foreign-born workers made up a record percentage of the labor force, at over 18%—the highest level in decades. Without this source of labor, businesses often struggle to meet customer demand or to grow, weighing down economic growth across the nation.
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