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Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., on Thursday accused the Biden administration of secretly ending Title 42 enforcement ahead of the May 23 deadline despite a court order blocking the move.
Issa made the accusation during an exchange with Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, who testified before the House Oversight Committee on Thursday. Issa said he had spoken with multiple border agents who said the Biden administration is already contacting migrants who were deported under Title 42 to reassess their status.
Title 42 is a Trump-era COVID-19 restriction allowing for the speedy deportation of most migrants at the border.
“When is Title 42 going to end?” Issa asked.
“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will –” Mayorkas responded before being cut off.
“No, no, no. Just the date,” Issa said.
“The CDC said May 23,” Mayorkas said.
Rep. Darrell Issa speaks during a news conference in El Cajon, California, on Sept. 26, 2019. (AP)
“When we were at the border a week ago we saw that, on your orders, orders from Washington, but I have to presume they were yours, Title 42 has already ended,” Issa asserted. “Your customs people were ordered to, and they were bringing in every day as many as they could get from down in Mexico Title 42 people that had been refused, and bringing them back in.”
“When I asked the agent in charge, she told me that they were trying to clear the backlog completely by May 23… That is a clandestine ending of Title 42. Why did you do it?” Issa said.
Mayorkas denied making such an order and said the accusation was “factually incorrect.” When pressed on why members of Congress had been told it was occurring, Mayorkas again denied that it was. He said only that his administration has ramped up deportations under Title 8 in anticipation of Title 42’s end.
Issa then called for it to be entered into the record that multiple members of Congress had been informed “by a uniformed agent” that the administration was already working to clear the Title 42 backlog.
Mayorkas has appeared before Congress several times in recent weeks. His Wednesday testimony before the House Appropriations Committee made waves when he confirmed the Biden administration was in talks to reallocate resources such as doctors and nurses from the Department of Veterans Affairs to treat migrants at the border.
A group of senators introduced a bill Tuesday that would “prohibit the use by the Department of Veterans Affairs of funds to provide emergency assistance at the southern border of the United States resulting from the repeal of certain public health orders, and for other purposes.
Republicans in the House took a similar action earlier in April.
The Biden administration has been preparing for a spike in migration that would come after it terminates Title 42.
A federal judge in Louisiana blocked the administration from ending the policy on Tuesday, however. The judge said the policy must remain in place until the administration can negotiate a satisfactory plan with border states on how to deal with the subsequent border surge.