Republicans, who are facing some backlash over strict abortion laws, are trying to make President Joe Biden’s policies at the southern border a major issue in this fall’s elections.

With border crossings reaching record levels, Texas Republicans have been especially vocal. Some Democrats have voiced concerns as well.

What You Need To Know

  • The Title 42 public health order was put in place at the border by former President Donald Trump. It permits border agents to send asylum-seekers back in order to curb the spread of COVID-19

  • A federal judge in May prevented the Biden administration from lifting the order, stating that keeping it in place serves the public interest

  • Critics say that the order has created a situation in which asylum-seekers attempt to cross the border multiple times, increasing the number of migrant encounters and arrests 

  • The total number of border arrests this year is on pace to reach 2 million by the end of the year. It has  already exceeded the 2021 total

Spectrum News recently encountered a migrant from Central America who was sent back once. He crossed the border again into the U.S., hoping to reunite with his family. Under the public health order known as Title 42, there are no legal consequences for doing so. 

Title 42 permits border agents to use the COVID-19 pandemic as justification for turning asylum-seekers away. Former President Donald Trump put it in place, and it continued during Biden’s presidency.

“It keeps people in limbo because they don’t have a yes or no answer. They don’t have an answer at all,” immigration attorney Kate Lincoln-Goldfinch said. “They go back to Mexico, where many of them are living in very dangerous, difficult conditions. And they’ll do anything to get themselves out it, keep their families and themselves safe. And they’ll keep trying until they actually get a screening system or an assessment of their case.”

The total number of border arrests this year is on pace to reach 2 million by the end of the year. It has already exceeded the 2021 total, according to the latest U.S. Customs and Border Patrol data.

The Biden administration says what accounts for that is the high number of migrants crossing the border multiple times.

Of the nearly 200,000 reported migrant encounters with federal agents along the border in July, 22% of the migrants involved had at least one previous encounter with an agent.

“You’re using a policy that's creating incentives for individuals to try to cross the border over and over. So it’s sort of, you know, the Biden administration and the Trump administration kind of pinned themselves in a corner,” Cristobal Ramón, an immigration policy consultant to the Bipartisan Policy Center, said.

Texas Republicans up for reelection this year have seized on record border crossings in order to criticize the Biden administration. Attorney General Ken Paxton has sued the administration many times over the issue.

“The argument isn’t that everybody who wants asylum should be allowed into the country. There are many asylum-seekers, or would-be asylum-seekers, who don’t qualify for asylum,” Lincoln-Goldfinch said. “What the argument is, is that there needs to be an available screening mechanism so that when someone does qualify for asylum, they have an opportunity to get in. And when they don’t, there is a way to assess their case and tell them that so that they can move on and make different plans for their lives.”

Some Texas Democrats are reluctant to end Title 42 as well. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, fears ending the program will hurt the party in November.

“When you’re actually looking at the fact that the policy itself actually creates recidivist border crossings, [you realize] it doesn’t actually promote any – quote-unquote – order at the border,” Ramón said. “It actually is a far more complex policy that actually creates, you know, more individuals trying to enter the United States over and over again.”

A federal judge blocked the Biden administration from lifting Title 42 in May, arguing keeping it in place would serve the public interest. The Department of Justice doesn’t agree, but until the issue gets resolved in a courtroom, the order will remain in place.