Felipe Alexandre: the end of Title 42
In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, the United States implemented Title 42, a public health policy that allowed the government to turn back individuals who were attempting to enter the country at the border. However, when the coronavirus public health emergency ends on May 11, authorities will no longer be able to quickly expel migrants from the border.
Welcoming hardworking people is a common theme in US history and it showcases our values as a society. But there is also a pragmatic reason: international competition. If America says no to immigrants who want to help us build a better country, they will do it somewhere else.
Labor shortages have been widespread across countries, particularly in Australia, Canada and the United States, according to a recent paper from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). But the problem is also present in Europe and, when it comes to highly skilled workers, in most developed economies. We just witnessed how the H-1B program presented problems this year, with many frauds and an all-time high number of applications.
Increasing the participation of immigrants in our labor force is essential to keep the economy growing and maintain America’s advantage towards its competitors on the global stage, especially against China, which currently competes with the US for airplane pilots, engineers, researchers, tech professionals and other highly-skilled laborers.
We also compete with China geopolitically. The only two superpowers on the planet have different, if not opposite views in many areas, including human rights. And many of those migrants who seek asylum in the US were victims of political and religious persecution in China. The end of Title 42, therefore, not only brings an economic opportunity to America, but the chance for us to continue defending the values on which our country was built, like freedom and democracy.
One of the biggest challenges facing the US right now with the end of Title 42 is how to balance political concerns with the need of creating an immigration system that is more human and fairer, just one year before the presidential election.
It won’t be easy. According to Gallup’s most recent survey, Americans’ satisfaction with the level of immigration into the US has fallen from 34% in January 2022 to 28% in January 2023. Per Gallup, this is the lowest reading in a decade. One of the reasons driving that statistic is the inability of lawmakers to have serious immigration reform in more than 30 years, even though America and the world have changed dramatically over this period.
I understand the need of the Biden administration to send a message to Republicans that our border is being protected. With the end of Title 42, indeed more individuals may attempt to enter the country, which could put a strain on an already overwhelmed immigration system. But there’s absolutely no need for 1,500 troops on the US-Mexico border. That’s a PR stunt aimed at the 2024 election. There is also no need to require immigrants to prove that they have applied for asylum or humanitarian relief in another country before reaching the US border, because in practice this makes asylum almost impossible. Rather than playing political football, we need to take serious steps to protect our citizens and our economy – while at the same time granting individuals protection from persecution.
An immigration overhaul is needed and I urge lawmakers to create a clear pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Expanding family-based visas to include more family members and increasing the number of visas available for highly skilled workers should also be discussed and resolved.
Reducing barriers to entry for entrepreneurs and creating new visa categories for workers in certain industries, without cap limitations, must also be a part of our new immigration solutions. When we look at the EB-3 visa, for example, there is currently a 3-year waiting time for the visa to be approved, which harms companies and workers. Which business can wait three years to hire a foreign employee without going bankrupt?
The end of Title 42 presents a significant challenge for the United States as it seeks to balance political concerns with the need for economic growth and protection of our democratic values. The Biden administration must find a way to navigate these challenges while also pursuing broader immigration policy goals with Republican leaders. By working together and finding solutions, we can create a more just and humane system that reflects our values as a nation of tolerance and prosperity.
Felipe Alexandre is an immigration attorney and managing partner at AG Immigration.