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Title 42: How has the COVID-19 border policy changed over the years

Immigration Asylum
Posted at 2:55 PM, Mar 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-27 17:04:31-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) – March 21, 2022, marked the two-year anniversary of Title 42, a controversial border policy enacted at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

But what exactly is it, and how has it changed over the years?

What is Title 42?

Title 42 is a clause in 1944 Public Health Services Lawthat gave the U.S. Surgeon General, later the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, the authority to determine if a disease in a foreign country can cause a serious threat of spreading in the U.S. by people or property entering the country.

In March 2020, the Trump administration used a variation of Title 42, which authorized the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol to turn away anyone entering the country without prior approval, citing a public health concern due to the pandemic leading to the closure of the border for nonessential travel.

The initial order was first enacted for 30 days, extended to a month and indefinitely in May 2020.


Under Title 42, migrants are not given an opportunity to seek asylum or the right to remain in the U.S. They're instead expelled to Mexico.

Before Title 42, migrants who made it to the U.S. seeking asylum were detained in the country pending a final immigration court decision.

Since the policy was first enacted, government statistics show border officials have used Title 42 to expel over 1.7 million times.

Updates to Title 42

In the wake of the war in Ukraine, a memo was released by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, dated March 11, which gave Ukrainians exemptions to Title 42 on a case-by-case basis. The guidance for Ukrainians is different from the application of Title 42 for migrants and asylum-seekers from other countries. People from Mexico, Russia, Central America, or other Western Hemisphere nations like Haiti and Brazil are being turned away.


On March 12, the CDC under the Biden administration ended Title 42 for unaccompanied migrant children arriving at the U.S.-Mexican border. Children in custody will have to be medically cleared before they are released.

In an April 1 announcement, CDC officials said the agency would end its Title 42 authority effective May 23.

On May 20, a Federal judge blocked this move citing the Biden Administration did not follow the correct procedures to end it.

On Dec. 19, Supreme Court Justice John Roberts issued a temporary hold on the end of the policy, which was scheduled to expire on Dec. 21 after states appealed to keep the policy in place.

On Dec. 27, the Supreme Court will allow Title 42 to remain in place indefinitely, causing potentially millions of asylum seekers to wait before entering the U.S.