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Ahead of his visit to the U.S.-Mexico border, Biden announces plans to expand Title 42

The Biden administration has announced a new immigration plan that expands the pandemic-era Title 42 policy, which sends migrants and asylum seekers who are caught crossing the border back into Mexico.

As part of the new policy, as many as 30,000 people from Venezuela, Nicaragua, Cuba and Haiti will be allowed to enter the U.S. each month. Those migrants will be given a temporary immigration status known as humanitarian parole, which will allow them to work in the United States for two years.

But migrants and asylum seekers who cross the U.S. border without following the new process will be ineligible for the program and can be expelled back to Mexico - which has agreed to accept 30,000 people from those countries each month.

This policy expands on a program implemented for Venezuelan asylum seekers last October to those from Nicaragua, Cuba and Haiti, and President Joe Biden said Thursday that the plan is designed to establish and orderly, safe and humane situation at the border.

But the announcement spurred a speedy backlash from migrant advocate groups, which criticized the policy as “straight from the Trump administration’s playbook,” saying it violates U.S. and international laws protecting those who flee their homes and reach the United States seeking asylum.

“They don’t have the luxury to, as the president suggested, stay put,” Dylan Corbett, executive director of the Hope Border Institute in El Paso, said during a press conference Friday.

“At the end of the day, the expansion of Title 42 to Cubans, Haitians and Nicaraguans is a broken promise,” he said, recalling Biden’s assurances as a presidential candidate that he would do away with Trump-era bans on asylum and migration at the border. “Rather than putting our country on a path to fully restoring asylum at the border, these new actions just entrench a dangerous, ineffective, inhumane policy.”

Biden is set to visit El Paso on Sunday - his first trip to the U.S.-Mexico border as president. Corbett said he’s glad Biden will be headed to the border in person and hopes he will see first hand the realities that he and others say make such a policy unworkable for most people who arrive at the U.S.-Mexico border seeking asylum after fleeing danger, persecution and crises in their home countries.

The Arizona-based Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project and the Kino Border Initiative also expressed disappointment in the new plan Friday.

"The Biden administration has consistently adopted practices that privilege some people seeking safety over others based on factors like nationality, existing ties to the U.S., and wealth," the groups said in a news release. "The right to seek asylum must be available to everyone, regardless of such factors. While this plan may very well lead to lower numbers of migrants crossing the border, it will also certainly leave people fleeing persecution with no option to seek protection for themselves and their families."

Kendal Blust was a senior field correspondent at KJZZ from 2018 to 2023.