A number of Democratic senators are growing increasingly wary of the administration’s plan to repeal Trump-era pandemic restrictions on the US-Mexico border that effectively blocked migrants from entering the US, setting up an ongoing clash between President Joe Biden and some members of his own party, including Kyrsten Sinema – Arizona and Mark Kelly – Arizona.
The Biden administration is expected to rescind Title 42, the pandemic-era order that allowed US border officials to turn migrants back to Mexico or their home countries immediately, citing a public health crisis.
The Biden administration is expected to rescind the rule in May, but many Democrats on Capitol Hill fear it is not enough time for the administration to establish an adequate plan to handle the uptick in migrant crossings that are expected to come with it.
“Until there is a plan, you got to have secure borders,” Virginia Democratic Sen. Mark Warner said. “To do something that might invite a doubling, tripling, quadrupling of numbers at the border, that is not in the best interest of America, that is not in the best interest of the administration, or the people who are trying to go through the process.”
Sen. Joe Manchin, a moderate Democrat from West Virginia, told reporters Thursday that he thought the administration should rethink the decision entirely.
“I think we should reconsider” removing it, Manchin said, adding, “Maybe that would get us to spur us to get a good immigration policy that works for America, secure our borders. The borders have to be secure.”
Leading the charge, two border state senators — Arizona’s Sens. Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly — sent a letter to the President last week, arguing that Title 42 needed to remain in place until the administration had demonstrated a clear plan to manage the number of migrants that would come across the border.
“Given the impacts that changes to Title 42 could have on border communities, border security and migrants, we urge your administration not to make any changes to title 42 implementation until you are completely ready to execute and coordinate a comprehensive plan that ensures a secure, orderly and humane process at the border,” they wrote.
Kelly doubled down Thursday, telling CNN he still hadn’t seen enough evidence the administration had put a plan together.”We need to make sure we don’t line up a situation that is unmanageable,” said Kelly, who’s facing a competitive reelection this year.
But, it’s not just border state Democrats who are carefully navigating the administration’s actions on Title 42.
“I’m not happy about it,” Rep. Elissa Slotkin, a Democrat from Michigan said. “We have no follow-on plan. We are sort of planning to be overwhelmed at the border.”
Slotkin said when she saw reports on plans to rescind Title 42, she swiftly put in a call to administration officials to figure out what the plan was going to be to ensure there wasn’t a surge.
Sen. Maggie Hassan, a Democrat from New Hampshire up for reelection, tweeted Wednesday she too was worried the administration hadn’t put in place an effective plan yet that would enable them to successfully repeal Title 42 without severe repercussions at the border.
“I am concerned that there is not a sufficient plan in place to address the steep increase in border crossings that could result from this reported decision,” Hassan said. “This preemptive repeal threatens border security at a time when the administration should be focused on strengthening it.”