Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, the United States has expelled at least 850,000 migrants under an order authorizing their expedited removal in the name of public health.
In the coming weeks, President Joe Biden and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are expected to slowly unwind that authority, called Title 42, albeit only for some groups and over an as-yet-undetermined timeline. But in a continuance of the longstanding difficulties that immigration issues have posed for the White House, that decision that comes too late and too slowly for immigration advocates—and too hastily for Republicans, who see troubles at the border as central to their efforts to retake Congress next year.
“It’s like the rat king of policy shitshows,” an Obama-era immigration official told The Daily Beast, likening the competing public health and political interests to nightmarish German folklore artifacts composed of a dozen rats with inter-knotted tails from which the only escape was self-amputation. “Changing the policy in any direction poses obvious risks to a) the legitimacy of your promises to implement humane immigration policies or b) your ability to effectively counter bad-faith ‘crisis at the border’ narratives—which might explain why it’s taken this long to change it.”