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Report finds pandemic-era border restrictions weren't enacted on public health grounds

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Title 42 was enacted in the spring of 2020, ostensibly to protect public health during the COVID-19 pandemic. But findings from Congress’ Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis tell a different story.

The protocol has allowed U.S. border officers to send migrants back across the border with limited processing and closes ports of entry to almost all asylum requests. Hundreds of thousands of migrants and asylum seekers have been subject to so-called Title 42 expulsions since its 2020 implementation.

It's the protocol enacted under the authority of the CDC. But during an interview earlier this year, Dr. Marty Cetron, director of the CDC Division of Global Migration and Quarantine, told the subcommittee the decision to enact it didn't come from within the agency. He called it "wholesale border closure" that he worried would unfairly stigmatize migrants as spreaders of disease, but said the plan was ultimately pushed through by top officials within the Trump administration, like former senior advisor Stephen Miller.

Kennji Kizuka with the advocacy group Human Rights First says the report confirms enacting the protocol was political.

"And it also makes clear that the real experts at the CDC actively opposed the imposition of Title 42 and they made clear that is was discriminatory and had no public health basis," he said. 

Kizuka’s group has recorded thousands of incidents of violent crime against migrants sent to Mexico under Title 42. Earlier this year, an appeals court in Louisiana ruled against an effort from the Biden administration to end the the protocol. The administration has appealed that decision, but has also expanded Title 42 to include Venezuelans.

Alisa Reznick is a senior field correspondent covering stories across southern Arizona and the borderlands for the Tucson bureau of KJZZ's Fronteras Desk.Prior to joining KJZZ, she covered border and immigration at Arizona Public Media, where she was awarded a regional Edward R. Murrow Award for her coverage of Indigenous-led protests against border wall construction.Reznick started her career working in bilingual newsrooms and as a freelance journalist in Amman, Jordan. Her reporting on migration, refugees and human rights has appeared on PRX’s The World, Al Jazeera and Nova PBS, among others. As a recipient of the International Labour Organization's FAIRWAY Reporting Fellowship, she spent six months reporting on labor migration issues across Arab States.Originally from Flagstaff, she likes climbing, being outdoors and Pluto.