Written By: Anton Sawyer
Since COVID began to rear its ugly head in late 2019, we have seen several different countries employ the use of older legislative interpretations to keep their nations safe by restricting travel from one nation to the next—all in an attempt to stem the tide of the virus. One of those that was enacted by ex-President Donald Trump was called “Title 42.” This order is about to expire at the end of Spring 2022, and the entire GOP-machine—legislators and talk-show pundits—have been experiencing a complete meltdown at the thought of its termination. Most of their reasoning is “palpable fear that the removal of Title 42 is going to further lead to the deterioration of our near non-existent border which is hemorrhaging bodies like those that flowed through the fences of the Woodstock ’69 concert.” That’s a mixture of various statements made by Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, and Jesse Kelly. All of which have graced the ears of millions of Americans … and sadly, believed by much of their targeted audience.
It's due to this enormous level of misinformation being spread, I’m going to look at what exactly Title 42 is, how its removal (or continuation) will truly impact the “safety” of America, and a look at how the entire GOP immigration platform won’t actually accomplish any of the goals that have been promised by them—whether it’s safety or otherwise.
In an attempt to maintain complete transparency, all research and statistical fact-checking for all articles can be found in the bibliography linked here.
If you can spare a few bucks to support a starving artist, buy me a coffee!
WHAT IS TITLE 42?
Former President Donald Trump invoked a public health authority, known as Title 42, at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. Title 42 refers to a rarely used section of the US Code that dates to 1944. The law empowers federal health authorities to prohibit migrants from entering the country if it is determined that doing so could prevent the spread of contagious diseases.
The CDC and Trump invoked Title 42 at the beginning of the US coronavirus outbreak in March 2020, giving Border Patrol agents the authority to swiftly expel migrants trying to enter the US instead of allowing them to seek asylum within the country, as had long been the policy before the pandemic. Migrants expelled from the US under Title 42 are returned to their home country or most recent transit country. It's important to remember that when examining these concerns, the CDC already ended the use of Title 42 for one group of migrants -unaccompanied minors–in March 2022. They further addressed concerns about the full removal of Title 42 in a statement made around the same time. The CDC claims, "In consultation with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), this termination will be implemented on May 23, 2022, to enable DHS time to implement appropriate COVID-19 mitigation protocols, such as scaling up a program to provide COVID-19 vaccinations to migrants and prepare for resumption of regular migration under Title 8."
Knowing what was around the corner, those who control FOX news and other conservative media outlets have ratcheted up the fears of their constituents as to what the full removal means. A good example is when Glenn Beck said that “Biden [is] set to embolden drug cartels and fentanyl deaths in May,”—referring to the expiration date set for Title 42. Because of all the misinformation permeating the airwaves, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas had to make an official statement explaining the realities of the situation. "Once the Title 42 Order is no longer in place, DHS will process individuals encountered at the border according to Title 8, which is the standard procedure we use to place individuals in removal proceedings." With the lifting of Title 42, migrants might be detained or removed if they don't have an asylum claim. Migrants may also be released into the US while they go through their immigration proceedings, and if released, might be enrolled in alternative detention programs for continued monitoring. Mayorkas did make one thing crystal clear when it came to the potential lifting of Title 42. "Nonetheless, we know that smugglers will spread misinformation to take advantage of vulnerable migrants. Let me be clear: those unable to establish a legal basis to remain in the United States will be removed."
So, if the realities of the situation don’t exactly jive with the way the Republican party would like it to in terms of severity, then what else are they potentially shading to their advantage?
HOW GOP IMMIGRATION POLICY WILL LEAD TO THE LOSS OF LEGITIMATE JOBS
When it comes to economic safety, the GOP is failing to financially demotivate crossing the border into the “land of opportunity.” They are accomplishing this by failing to attempt enacting any legislation in stopping illegal immigrants from working illegally in America … legally.
Beginning in 1996 through regulations set forth by the US Department Of Treasury, the Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) was a way for those who held no legal documentation allowing them to work in the US to hold legally obtained employment. According to the IRS, the ITIN is a tax processing number issued by the Internal Revenue Service. The IRS issues ITINs to individuals who are required to have a US taxpayer identification number but who do not have and are not eligible to obtain a Social Security number (SSN) from the Social Security Administration (SSA). What this means is that you can be an illegal immigrant here with a job and be assigned a payment number that allows you to legally pay taxes while you illegally work.
When you hear a Republican leader threaten their constituents about someone coming over the border and “taking an American job,” remember that every ITIN issued means that an actual job over here has already been lost as a matter-of-fact. It’s important to note that every GOP representative in recent history has known about this—there is no plausible deniability. I can feel safe in making this accusation knowing that, per a Forbes report, after the first round of Trump stimulus checks went out in 2020, there were a lot of lawsuits allowed to proceed against the administration because the verbiage of the stimulus check forbade those with an ITIN to get the check. Also, those who shared a checking account with someone in possession of an ITIN were denied their stimulus check as well. Given the ITIN has now been around for over 25 years and the RNC has done literally nothing about it, I don’t think they are going to start at any point in the near future.
Philosophically speaking, whether you agree with the ITIN and its continued use or not, is an entirely different conversation. The point here is that current conservative policies do nothing to address the potential removal of this policy via legislation, thereby negating their argument of safety as it pertains to matters of economy.
So what about the traditional definition of safety?
DEPORTATIONS, QUALITY OF ARRESTS, AND HOW TRUMP FAILED BOTH
I’m not going to repeat the talking points that Trump has made over the years when it comes to the citizens of the nation of Mexico. One theme we are all aware of when it comes to his statements is that only through his immigration policies can we stop the “invasion” from those who have “violently overrun the Mexican border.” Now that time has come to be on our side, we can look at what the actual immigration numbers from the official governmental reports from the last few presidencies look like. Here's a hint: it isn’t good for the MAGA crowd.
In a small bit of good news for Trump and his ilk, ICE deportation officers arrested 74,082 immigrants in the fiscal year 2021 (Biden’s first full year), which ended in October; this was a 28% drop from 2020 (Trump’s last year). And the agency carried out 59,011 deportations in the fiscal year 2021. According to historical ICE data, this was an all-time low. The previous low came in the fiscal year 2004 when ICE recorded 175,106 deportations. These numbers do come with two caveats.
First, overall arrests also decreased sharply during this time frame because of the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
Second, context matters. When looking at the "quality" of those arrest/deportation differentials between the last two presidents, you see the pendulum swing back in favor of Biden. Current rules instruct ICE officers to detain immigrants convicted of serious crimes, migrants who recently crossed a US border illegally, and those deemed to pose a national security risk, such as suspected terrorists. Under the Biden-era rules, officers generally refrain from arresting immigrants with clean records if they have lived in the US for years. ICE arrests of immigrants convicted of "aggravated felonies" rose to 12,025 in 2021, up from 6,815 in 2020. Under US immigration law, "aggravated felonies" are a range of crimes that include serious, violent offenses like murder and rape, as well as other crimes that are deemed misdemeanors in some states.
Collectively, immigrants arrested by ICE in the fiscal year 2021 had been convicted of a combined 1,506 homicide-related offenses, 3,415 sexual assaults, 19,549 assaults, 2,717 robberies, and 1,063 kidnappings, the agency said in the ICE Annual Report Fiscal Year, published in March 2022. ICE also highlighted a slight increase in "at large" arrests, which occur during targeted operations in communities, as opposed to transfers from state or federal criminal custody. ICE recorded 25,993 at-large arrests in 2021, compared to 23,932 in 2020.
When going back further and looking at the differences between the numbers of Trump and Obama, the evidence shows that being selective was also much more effective. A Pew Research report from March 2020 shows that immigration removal numbers under Obama were consistently higher than Trump's. In fiscal 2018 Customs and Border Protection and ICE together carried out 337,287 removals of unauthorized immigrants, a 17% increase from the previous year. But removals remained below the levels recorded during much of the Obama administration, including three years between fiscal 2012 and 2014 when there were more than 400,000 per year.
The numbers show that when it comes to immigration, there isn’t anything the Republican party has offered as a part of their platform which will lead to their ultimate goal of whatever “safety” means that week. Now, we can argue the philosophy of what it means to remove someone from a nation and its overall effect on society—ranging from subjects like the fiscal burden placed on the (illegal) taxpayer to the potential impact on an already overwhelmed American criminal justice system. Those are all subjects worth further investigation. But that’s all philosophy. If we look at just the cold, hard numbers, then it is easy to conclude that the removal of illegal immigrants using more selective criteria than just a nationwide net is going to have the most overall benefit to the regular citizen than anything else recommended thus far.
But, what about the ITIN and removing potential employment as an incentive?
As with anything else IRS-related, you’re more likely to die of old age before understanding how to change anything over there—for better or worse.
If you can spare a few bucks to support a starving artist, buy me a coffee!