What does the end of Title 42 mean?

Learn more about Laura Collins.
Laura Collins
Director, Bush Institute-SMU Economic Growth Initiative
George W. Bush Institute

Title 42, the pandemic-era public health guidance that quickly expelled most asylum seekers at the U.S.-Mexico border, ended May 11 after three years in place. Processing unauthorized border crossings will revert to normal immigration law, including penalties such as a five-year bar to reentry. 

Why this matters: Border encounters were high over the last three years, driven in part by Title 42’s relatively weak legal penalties and lack of deterrence for repeat crossers. Access to request asylum will be easier without Title 42, however, border encounters are expected to increase in the short term over the next several weeks due to pent up demand from migrants seeking a legal pathway to enter the U.S. 

What we’re watching: The Biden Administration has sent 1,500 troops to the border for 90 days to support the Department of Homeland Security with an expected increase in migrants.  

What else is the U.S. government doing to manage migration? 

  • Both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate have proposed legislation to address the border and asylum. Even if these bills become law, neither is likely to have a short-term impact on the border. 
  • The Biden Administration released a regional plan to provide additional legal pathways for migration, allow migrants to apply to enter the U.S. from closer to home, and share the resettlement of vulnerable migrants with other countries. The plan also proposes to restrict asylum access for migrants who do not enter at a port of entry. The plan’s effectiveness will depend on quick and successful implementation. 

Between the lines: The type of migrants at the border has changed dramatically in the last 15 years, and there is a refugee crisis in the Western Hemisphere. For any policy to be effective, it must be laser-focused on actually enhancing security rather than being needlessly punitive to vulnerable migrants.  Making asylum less accessible will not stop migrants from arriving at the border to request U.S. protection. 

Bottom line: With the end of Title 42, it is more urgent than ever to address the long-standing deficiencies in U.S. border policy and the immigration system as a whole. Congress must lead in a new approach to remedy some of the most pressing issues until there is commitment from U.S. policymakers to undertake reform of the entire U.S. immigration system.