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Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images.
Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images.

With $10 billion more in COVID aid on the table, Republicans fight over immigration

They take issue with the Biden admin’s ending of Title 42, which permitted the U.S. to turn away asylum seekers for public health reasons.

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On Monday, April 4, Senate leaders reached an agreement to pass bipartisan legislation that would provide $10 billion in COVID-19 response funding, but the operations have been halted due to a political fight over immigration.

This quarrel is potentially delaying the White House’s requested money for weeks. The battle deals with the Biden administration’s choice to end a pandemic policy known as Title 42, which permits U.S. officials to turn away asylum-seekers at the border for public health reasons.

Senate Republicans unanimously voted to block the pandemic relief effort. GOP senators demanded that amendments be made to the legislation that would revoke Biden’s move and reinstate Title 42. 

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer warned Republicans on Tuesday, April 5 not to “hold the bill hostage” by insisting on a vote to amend the bill. 

“The bottom line is this is a bipartisan agreement that does a whole lot of good for the American people: Vaccines, testing, therapeutics. It should not be held hostage for an extraneous issue,” he told reporters. 

Schumer negotiated the package with Sen. Mitt Romney and agreed to drop billions of dollars for a global vaccination effort in order to pick up GOP support, but it apparently wasn’t enough. 

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters that he will insist on allowing an amendment vote to restore Title 42, which the Biden administration announced last week it would lift. 

The White House has urged Congress to pass the funding as quickly as possible, warning that money for vaccines and testing is drying up as a new variant threatens the nation.

On Tuesday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that it’s “disappointing” that Senate Republicans have voted down consideration, but vowed to continue working with both chambers to get it passed. 

Critics of Biden’s Title 42 decision claim it would boost migration to the U.S. and pose national security risks. 

But the administration and its allies argue that terminating the rule will simply return the system to pre-pandemic protocol, and that migrants will continue to be removed unless they establish “a legal basis to remain” in the U.S. 

Republicans insist that the administration’s move to request billions of dollars to fight COVID-19 while ending Title 42 is “hypocritical.” Title 42 gives the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) the authority to limit migrant crossings at the U.S.-Mexico border during the pandemic. 

While the CDC issued Title 42 at the start of the pandemic in 2020 to mitigate the spread of the disease, critics say it has been in place for too long and is now being used to neglect legitimate asylum claims.

New Mexico Sen. Ben Ray Luján, who is part of the group of lawmakers advocating for a Title 42 termination, said he fully supports the administration’s move. 

"We need Covid funding in America. We should be working together on this. There's agreement... Now's the time for us to work together to get it done,” Luján said. 

 

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