Public health order renewal may keep migrants from requesting asylum

Health & Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra announced the Biden administration is once again keeping a public health order in place — a move that could keep migrants crossing into the U.S. barred from requesting asylum.

The restrictions were set to expire Wednesday, but Becerra renewed the order Monday in a statement published on HHS’ Public Health Emergency government website.

“As a result of the continued consequences of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, on this date and after consultation with public health officials as necessary, I, Xavier Becerra, Secretary of Health and Human Services, pursuant to the authority vested in me under section 319 of the Public Health Service Act, do hereby renew, effective July 20, 2021, the January 31, 2020, determination by former Secretary Alex M. Azar II, that he previously renewed on April 21, 2020, July 23, 2020, October 2, 2020, and January 7, 2021, and that I renewed on April 15, 2021, that a public health emergency exists and has existed since January 27, 2020, nationwide,” the order stated.

The order was first set on Jan. 30, 2020 and has since been renewed multiple times. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention leveraged this order in March 2020 and created its own order dictating change at the border.

Under the CDC’s order and a federal public health code known as Title 42, U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection expels migrants from the country and keeps them from requesting asylum. The order was amended in October.

Discussions regarding whether those restrictions will be lifted began since March, the anniversary of the first orders, but they’ve been kept in place.

McAllen leaders contend that lifting the order would lead to more migrants released into local communities and overwhelm shelters. Nonprofit organizers, however, said they’re preparing for the increase.

Restrictions on essential travel through ports of entry are governed by a separate order and federal authority known as Title 19.

An official announcement from DHS is pending, but their last orders are set to expire Wednesday.