The United States will end a sweeping pandemic-related expulsion policy that has effectively closed the U.S. asylum system at the border with Mexico, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said Friday.
The Title 42 public health order will remain in effect until May 23, Mayorkas said in a statement.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which issued the order in March 2020 as countries around the world shuttered their borders amid COVID-19 fears, said it was no longer needed to limit the spread of the virus.
“After considering current public health conditions and an increased availability of tools to fight COVID-19 (such as highly effective vaccines and therapeutics), the CDC Director has determined that an Order suspending the right to introduce migrants into the United States is no longer necessary,” the CDC said in a separate statement.
The formal announcement comes after Reuters and other news outlets reported details of the plan on Wednesday.
U.S. President Joe Biden, a Democrat, kept Title 42 in place after taking office in January 2021 despite fierce criticism from his own political party and campaign promises to reverse the restrictive immigration policies of his Republican predecessor, Donald Trump.
Leading Democrats, medical experts and the United Nations have criticized Title 42, saying that it expels migrants to danger in Mexico and that scientific evidence does not support its stated goal of limiting the spread of the virus.
Several migrants in a nearly 2,000-person encampment in Reynosa, Mexico, told Reuters on Thursday they were hopeful the order would be lifted so they could legally claim asylum in the United States.
Republicans blasted Biden this week following reports the order would be ended, saying lifting the pandemic restrictions would encourage more migrants to enter illegally at a time when border crossings are already breaking records.
U.S. Department of Homeland Security officials said earlier this week that although they were preparing to handle a sharp spike in border crossings, it remained unclear whether lifting the COVID-era order would increase migration.