McMaster demands airports officials report illegal immigrants as Title 42 lifted

Gov. Henry McMaster has instructed airport officials to report any incidents involving people living in the country without permission.
Published: May. 12, 2023 at 5:27 PM EDT|Updated: May. 13, 2023 at 1:53 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC/AP) - Gov. Henry McMaster has instructed airport officials to report any incidents involving people living in the country without permission.

In a letter to Mark Keel, the director of the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, McMaster asked him to direct the chief law enforcement official for each of the state’s commercial airports to “immediately report any efforts to deplane or transport illegal immigrants at their facilities, along with information identifying the name(s) and vehicle information of those involved in facilitating said transport.”

McMaster said on Twitter that he sent the letter Thursday night, ahead of the expiration of the federal government’s “Title 42″ COVID-19 public health emergency order.

“As video and pictures from our nation’s southern border indicate, large numbers of immigrants from around the world have gathered in preparation to illegally cross the United States-Mexico border upon the expiration of Title 42,” he wrote.

He went on to blast the Joe Biden Administration and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, who he says “remains committed to denying the existence of -- or addressing the humanitarian and national security crisis they have created.”

“It is no wonder that Americans continue to lose confidence and trust in anything the Biden Administration says or does,” he wrote.

Here’s what Title 42 did and how US immigration policy is changing

Title 42 is the name of an emergency health authority. It was a holdover from President Donald Trump’s administration and began in March 2020. The authority allowed U.S. officials to turn away migrants who came to the U.S.-Mexico border on the grounds of preventing the spread of COVID-19.

Before that, migrants could cross illegally, ask for asylum and be allowed into the U.S. They were then screened and often released to wait out their immigration cases.

Under Title 42, migrants were returned over the border and denied the right to seek asylum. U.S. officials turned away migrants more than 2.8 million times. Families and children traveling alone were exempt.

But there were no real consequences when someone illegally crossed the border. So migrants were able to try again and again to cross, on the off chance they would get into the U.S.

President Joe Biden initially kept Title 42 in place after he took office, then tried to end its use in 2022. Republicans sued, arguing the restrictions were necessary for border security. Courts had kept the rules in place. But the Biden administration announced in January that it was ending national COVID-19 emergencies, and so the border restrictions have now gone away.

Biden has said the new changes are necessary, in part because Congress has not passed immigration reform in decades.

But as Title 42 restrictions were lifted at 11:59 p.m. Thursday, the Biden administration has put into place a series of new policies cracking down on illegal crossings. The administration says it’s trying to stop people from paying smuggling operations to make a dangerous and often deadly journey.

Now there will be strict consequences. Migrants caught crossing illegally will not be allowed to return for five years and can face criminal prosecution if they do.

Under U.S. and international law, anyone who comes to the U.S. can ask for asylum. People from all over the world travel to the U.S-Mexico border to seek asylum. They are screened to determine whether they have a credible fear of persecution in their homeland. Their case then goes to the immigration court system to determine if they can stay in the U.S., but that process can take years. Usually, they are released into the U.S. to wait out their cases.

The Biden administration is now turning away anyone seeking asylum who didn’t first seek protection in a country they traveled through, or first applied online. This is a version of a Trump administration policy that was overturned by the courts. Advocacy groups sued to block the new rule minutes before it took effect.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in San Francisco by the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies and other groups, alleges the Biden administration “doubled down” on the policy proposed by Trump that the same court rejected. The Biden administration has said its new rule is substantially different.

The U.S. has said it will accept up to 30,000 people per month from Venezuela, Haiti, Nicaragua and Cuba as long as they come by air, have a sponsor and apply online first. The government also will allow up to 100,000 people from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras into the U.S. who have family here if they, too, apply online. Border officials will otherwise deport people, including turning 30,000 per month from Venezuela, Haiti, Nicaragua and Cuba who will be sent back over the border to Mexico.

Other migrants also may be allowed in if they apply through the CBP One app. Right now, 740 people per day have been allowed in using the app, which is being increased to 1,000 per day.

Families crossing the border illegally will be subject to curfews and the head of household will have to wear an ankle monitoring bracelet. Immigration officials will try to determine within 30 days whether a family can stay in the U.S. or be deported. Usually, the process would take years.