DHS unveils its border security plan
The six-point strategy is a response to critics from both parties who believe the Biden administration announced the end of Title 42 without a steps in place to handle the aftermath.
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Today’s top story is on the Biden adminstration’s six-point plan to prepare for the end of a Trump-era public health order. But first, let’s catch up on the news:
Vice President Kamala Harris tested positive for COVID-19. She has exhibited no symptoms and is isolated and working from her residence. President Joe Biden and Harris spoke Tuesday afternoon. “He wanted to check in and make sure she has everything she needs as she quarantines at home,” the White House said in a statement.
60 percent of Americans have been infected with the virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Some scientists said they expected the numbers to be higher due to the highly contagious Delta and Omicron variants. (Apoorva Mandavilli / NYT)
Related: Three out of every four US children have been infected. The percentage of those 17 and under with antibodies rose from about 45 percent in December to about 75 percent in February. (Mike Stobbe / AP News)
Also: Pfizer submitted an application to the Food and Drug Administration for emergency use authorization of a booster dose of its vaccine for children 5 through 11. It says a third dose raised Omicron-fighting antibodies by 36 times in this age group. (Jen Christensen / CNN)
The US Preventive Services Task Force no longer recommends daily aspirin to prevent a first heart attack or stroke among people 60 and older. The USPSTF, which is an influential physician group that helps guide medical best practices, said people 40 to 59 should only take it if they have a high risk of cardiovascular disease and in consultation with a doctor, while adding there is little benefit in continuing aspirin beyond the age of 75 years old. (Dr. Chineze Akusoba / ABC News)
More Americans say high school grades and standardized test scores should matter in the admissions process than say the same about other factors. Nearly three-quarters of Americans or more say gender, race or ethnicity, or whether a relative attended the school shouldn’t factor into admissions decisions. (Vianny Gómez / Pew Research Center)
Harvard University is committing $100 million for an endowed “Legacy of Slavery Fund” that would allow scholars and students to bring Harvard’s connections to slavery into the light for generations to come. The fund is part of the Ivy League institution’s effort to begin redressing the wrongs of the past but stops short of calling for direct financial reparations for the descendants of enslaved people. (Anemona Hartocollis / NYT)
Actress Viola Davis responded to criticism of her portrayal of former First Lady Michelle Obama in a new TV series. “How do you move on from the hurt, from failure? But you have to. Not everything is going to be an awards-worthy performance,” she said. (Rebecca Jones / BBC News)
Here’s what else you need to know today:
President Biden this morning will receive his daily intelligence briefing before he attends the funeral of former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright where he will also speak. Biden this afternoon will host the Council of Chief State School Officers’ 2022 National and State Teachers of the Year with First Lady Jill Biden. The Bidens, Education Secretary Miguel Cardonaand 2022 National Teacher of the Year Kurt Russell will speak.
The House is in and will consider ethics legislation requiring federal judges to disclose their finances online and work on a measure to help bring US citizen Paul Whelan home from imprisonment in Russia.
The Senate is in and will consider several of President Biden’s executive and judicial nominees.
Now back to today’s top story:
The Department of Homeland Security on Tuesday released a border plan to reporters that outlined its preparations for the end of Title 42, the public health order that allowed border officials to quickly expel undocumented migrants — even those seeking asylum — to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus at border facilities and in border communities.
The six-point plan includes how DHS will use an expedited removal procedure to quickly turn back unqualified immigrants at the border the updates to the department’s border operations.
The White House legislative affairs team briefed senior congressional staff on the plan in hopes it would satisfy critics from both parties who believed President Joe Biden allowed his administration to lift Title 42 without a strategy in place to handle the aftermath. (A Louisiana federal judge has blocked the White House from ending Title 42 as scheduled next month but the administration officials are proceeding under the belief the authority will ultimately be lifted.)
DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas will testify this morning before the House Appropriations subcommittee on Homeland Security where he’s all but certain to face tough questioning on his department’s plan.
“People want to feel like they belong. They want to feel like America is a country that has an orderly process, a fair process, a transparent process to come here,” Laura Martin, executive director of PLAN Action, a progressive advocacy group based in Nevada, a key battleground state that could decide the balance of power in the Senate next year, said to me over the phone on Tuesday. “People aren’t coming here because they want to go to Disneyland. People are coming here because in many ways they feel like they’re left with no options and the United States has taken many opportunities from people.”
These people, Martin told me, are coming here to live a better life. And if America is the country that calls itself the freest and the most liberated, then people who are politically needing to get out of their country or because of their own gender identity or HIV status, we need to stand firm to our word when it comes to asylum.
“Are we actually a country that’s free or are we a country where every election cycle we’re going to use our immigration system to batter our political opponents?”
Senior administration officials told reporters during a press call that many elements of the DHS’s plan are already being implemented as the US manages a historic number of encounters of noncitizens at the southwest border, including those trying to enter the US multiple times. Others, the officials said, are elements DHS is prepared to implement once the Title 42 termination goes into effect.
Title 42 has put President Biden in a tough spot within his own party: So-called moderate Democrats and members up for reelection later this year have railed against the decision to lift the authority as a matter of principle or self-preservation. Progressives, on the other hand, have welcomed the end of Title 42 and have been calling for it since the Trump administration implemented it.
Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who sits squarely in the first camp, said on Tuesday that Title 42 should remain in place until the US passes new immigration laws or until the CDC determines there is no longer a health crisis.
“We do agree with him. Absolutely, there should be an immigration policy and there should be immigration reforms and they are long overdue,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said. “And we’d love to work with him and any other members on moving that forward.”
For what it’s worth, the White House takes any chance it gets to remind reporters that President Biden never felt that Title 42 was an effective immigration policy and said so during the 2020 presidential campaign.
“The president has never made a secret of the fact that he thinks this immigration reform is necessary and that Title 42 was never a replacement for comprehensive immigration reform that would put in place smarter security, that would ensure there was an asylum processing system that worked,” Psaki said.
And though Republican lawmakers are exploiting the politics of immigration to gin up their base ahead of the midterms, the Biden White House says it inherited a broken and dismantled immigration system from the Trump administration.
The officials also noted that the US is one of many countries experiencing an increase in migration. There are currently more people displaced from their homes across the world than at any time since World War II, the DHS reported in its plan. Violence, food insecurity, severe poverty, corruption, climate change, the pandemic and dire economic conditions all contribute to the increase in North and South America, according to the report.
While much of the Title 42 debate has focused on the US-Mexico border, the White House has also been pressed on its handling of migration from countries like Haiti.
“I would have to dig into this a little deeper,” Psaki said on Tuesday when asked about Haitians being sent back while the US is now accepting Ukrainian refugees and expected to see an influx of migration at the southern border starting next month.
Psaki said Haitians who have been in the US from a certain point have access to Temporary Protective Status, a non-immigration designation in the United States that allows beneficiaries to live and, in some cases, work in America for a limited amount of time.
“Beyond that, our focus, though, is, of course, on continuing to be the largest provider of aid and assistance to Haiti, ensuring we can take steps there to lead in the world, encouraging other countries in the world to take steps as well.”
Martin from Nevada’s PLAN Action told me this work is urgent because much of the US immigration system is rooted in anti-Blackness and that comprehensive reform includes lifting up Black immigrants, who often receive inequitable treatment.
“I just hope we can get it solved and just stop using immigrants and to score political points because it’s really sad.”
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