The Department of Homeland Security announced in a statement on Friday that it had resumed flights for “certain families who recently arrived at the southern border that cannot be expelled under Title 42, and do not have a legal basis to stay in the United States.
DHS said it restarted the removal of families back to Central America, who recently arrived at the southern from a spike of crossing at the border into the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. The return of these families to Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, “Is a lawful means to securely manage our border,” according to the DHS.
The White House announced on Monday that it planned to seed up deportations for families that could not be expelled under Title 42 infuriated advocates. Expedited removal has been used by Republican and Democratic administrations to allow border officials to expel migrants without a hearing before an immigration judge.
The move by the Biden administration comes as Republican lawmakers criticized the White House’s handling of the border, with many blaming the Texas Covid surge on increased border crossings from Mexico and added pressure for officials to restart the flights.
The Biden administration has continued to use the public health order, Title 42, which was invoked by former President Donald Trump at the start of the pandemic to expel migrants without allowing them to seek asylum. Biden has declined to use Title 42 to deport minors crossing into the U.S.
Democratic lawmakers and immigration advocates have called on the Biden administration to ditch the Trump-era policy, saying its use is unlawful, inhumane and not justified by public health. The group say migrants could instead be tested for Covid and isolated upon entering the U.S. to prevent the spread of the virus.
The administration was expected to start phasing out its use of Title 42 this summer, beginning with allowing migrant families to seek asylum. But as the U.S. enters the next uncertain phase of the pandemic and returns to mitigation measures such as masks, the administration has delayed lifting the restrictions.
It has been reported by DHS officials that the spread of the coronavirus has made resuming the flights difficult as many families who were slated to return to their countries had either tested positive for COVID-19 or were exposed to someone who tested positive for the virus.
It was also reported that of the 147 adults and children who were scheduled to leave from Brownsville, Texas, on two flights, only 72 people actually left the country. Most of the migrants on flights back were single adults who returned negative COVID-19 tests.