April 30, 2023

Lou Correa: Title 42 is rightfully set to end. But are we prepared?

Our world is seeing a global refugee movement, much of it because of the COVID-19 pandemic and its lingering effects, that has reached our country’s front door. Mexico and Canada are also feeling the effects, like many of our Latin American neighbors.

As the world economy stumbles, our economy remains the world’s economic locomotive, generating strong economic output and record low unemployment; and because of this, we have a worker shortage.

That’s why there is a record number of refugees knocking at our doors, for safety and opportunity.

In 2020, the Trump administration used Title 42 to immediately turn back refugees at the border on public health grounds. The Biden administration continued this policy, but recently, the Biden administration announced that it will terminate Title 42 on May 11. That’s a good thing, and I’ve called for it — but are we prepared?

Many anticipate a border rush when Title 42 ends. As the top Democrat on the Border Security and Enforcement Subcommittee, it’s my job to work and see if we are prepared. I’ve been visiting our border to see the Biden administration’s preparations to address these border challenges.

Temporary facilities are being built, additional contractors have been hired, and state national guards are present, from California to Texas — and we’re making progress.

Ports continue to be the economic drivers for our nation. I’ve seen first-hand how Mexico, one of our largest trading partners, is making sure that trade continues to flow into the U.S. and Canada, because chaos at the border is in no one’s best interest. That’s why our trading partners and the private sector are also engaged. I have seen a strong working relationship between U.S. and Mexican federal officials at the border. Some were working side-by-side in the same facilities, and this cooperation is critical.

Short- and long-term solutions that treat refugees humanely can be implemented to address this challenge. A year ago, I saw a successful solution at Ukrainian refugee camps in Tijuana.

The process was simple: refugees were escorted to a “processing center,” given exceptions to Title 42, and granted “parole,” or a temporary two-year entry into the U.S. Within days, Ukrainian refugees began entering the United States — orderly and humanely. Today, this camp no longer exists, because Ukrainians can now apply for parole from Europe and fly directly to the United States.

This model works, and we should learn from it.

The Biden administration is looking to duplicate this model with the CBP One app, to make it orderly, practical and efficient to apply for parole from a refugee’s home country. Alongside temporary parole programs, it’s showing results, including a decline in border encounters by over 70% from nations with this status.

Incentives are being created to empower refugees to apply for status from their home country and ease the refugee challenge at our borders. It’s dangerous and expensive to reach our border, a journey in which 80% of women are raped or sexually assaulted, and migrants are spending $2.2 billion every year trying to complete the trip, with most of that money going to smugglers.

But this is only the start. Most coming to our nation won’t qualify for refugee status. Those deemed economic refugees are unlikely to be granted stay beyond their temporary parole, when an immigration court finds no “credible fear” and that they are not eligible for asylum. They will then have to leave our country.

Irrespective of a court’s decision, many migrants will continue to blend into our economic fabric fueled by our strong U.S. economy that is desperate for workers.

American businesses of all sizes are suffocating at the hand of record low unemployment, and their need for workers. From farmworkers to hi-tech workers, our miraculous economy will continue to welcome economic refugees, whether we give them a pathway or not. They will add to the many undocumented workers already here, many of whom have been here for decades.

Refugees, economic or otherwise, and our strong American economy, all scream for long-term solutions.

And meaningful immigration reform, which enables workers to come to work legally and enter and exit the country with dignity, is key to fixing the challenges we face.

The private sector will always figure out how to hire the workers they need, irrespective of our government’s inaction, and individual ingenuity motivated by hunger and economic insecurity will find a way, just like our ancestors did, in coming to this great nation.

It’s past time the federal government stepped up and got the job done.


Lou Correa is serving his fourth term in Congress representing California’s 46th district, which includes Santa Ana, Anaheim, Orange Stanton, and Fullerton. He serves on the House Judiciary Committee and the House Homeland Security Committee, and is the ranking member of the Border Security and Enforcement Subcommittee.

Source: The Orange County Register