Featured Article: “Title 42 Is Gone, but Not the Conditions Driving Migrants to the U.S.” by Miriam Jordan
When the Biden administration allowed the coronavirus public health emergency declaration to expire on May 11, Title 42, a section of the Public Health Service Act of 1944, effectively ended. The rule, enacted during the pandemic, allows the government to halt the entry of people and imports into the United States to prevent the spread of disease.
For three years, Title 42 has meant that border officials could immediately expel millions of people, including those seeking asylum, upon arrival to the United States without going through the time-consuming steps typically needed to process migrants.
Over the past few years, illegal border crossings have been historically high — part of what the United Nations has identified as a global migration trend. Now, with the end of this Covid-era policy, U.S. officials expect the numbers of migrants at the southern border to grow even higher.
In this lesson, you will learn more about the end of Title 42 and what is driving the record levels of migration to the United States. In one Going Further activity, we ask you to explore the stories of immigrants seeking asylum. In another, we invite you to imagine that you are an adviser to President Biden and to make a recommendation on the current border situation.
Part 1: Explore push and pull factors that affect immigration and migration.
When historians and sociologists discuss immigration, they sometimes point to push and pull factors to explain why groups of people move from one place to another. Push factors are the reasons people decide to leave their homelands, and pull factors are the reasons people choose to move to a particular place.
Use your knowledge of history and current events to make a list of various push and pull factors to describe why people might leave their homelands to move to another country.
Part 2: Look at photos of scenes from the U.S. southern border, as Title 42 expired.
As Title 42 restrictions expires, New York Times photographers are documenting the experience on both sides of the border, from San Diego on the West Coast to Matamoros, Mexico, near the Gulf of Mexico.
Scroll through the images in this collection. Then, in writing or through discussion with a partner, respond to the following questions:
What do you notice? What can you learn from the photographs from the U.S. southern border since the end of Title 42?
What do you wonder? What questions do you have about these images, the people and the scenes they depict?
Taken as a whole, what do these images tell you about the situation at the southern border? If you had to create a headline for the collection, what would it be?
Questions for Writing and Discussion
Read the featured article, then answer the following questions:
1. According to the article, why have there been widespread fears that the end of Title 42 on May 11 would set off a stampede of migrants from Mexico? What, in fact, has happened before and after the expiration of the pandemic-era policy?
2. What new restrictions has the Biden administration put into place to address a possible surge in migrants following the end of Title 42? How are those new restrictions being challenged by immigrant advocacy groups and by federal judges?
3. What did you learn about the push and pull factors driving migration to the United States? Compare them to your list from the warm-up activity. What else can you add?
4. Wayne Cornelius, an immigration scholar and emeritus professor at the University of California, San Diego, said, “There has never been a better moment for migrants to seek work in the U.S.” What evidence from the article supports his claim?
5. The article notes that a renewed surge in migrants at the border could deepen political headaches for the Biden administration and that Republicans are hoping to make immigration central to their 2024 election campaigns. Why do you think the issue of immigration is such a polarizing one today? How does the issue or the debate around it affect you and your community?
6. What are your three biggest takeaways from the article? What details, quotes, statistics or images stand out most? What questions do you still have about migrants, the end of Title 42 or about U.S. immigration policy in general?
Option 1: Learn more about the lives of the immigrants seeking asylum in the U.S.
Who are the migrants seeking asylum in the United States? What conditions do they face at home? What has been their journey to get to the U.S.? What have they discovered at the U.S. border?
Watch the video above, or read one of the recent Times articles below. Then, in writing or through discussion with a partner, respond to the following prompts: What new things did you learn about the story of migrants at the U.S. border? How did the perspectives of the migrants themselves affect your understanding of the issue? What quotes and details stood out and why? What new questions arose?
Option 2: Make a recommendation to President Biden on U.S. immigration policy.
In “The New Surge at the Border,” David Leonhardt writes that immigration, like so many other political subjects today, has become highly polarized. And, as a result, he argues, the issue’s complexities and trade-offs sometimes get obscured:
Donald Trump was the most anti-immigration president in decades, promising to build a border wall and demeaning immigrants with racist language. Joe Biden ran for president in 2020 promising a more welcoming approach — and after he won the election, the number of people trying to enter the country without permission spiked.
Democrats have not engaged in anything as hateful as the white nationalist conspiracy theories that are common on Fox News. But Democrats have sometimes brushed aside the hard questions of immigration policy.
A relatively lax approach to border security does have downsides. Early in Biden’s presidency, thousands of people in Latin America left their homes and headed north, often taking enormous risks. Some made it to the U.S. and have given themselves a chance at a better future. Others have languished in crowded and dangerous conditions in northern Mexico — a sign that a porous border creates its own humanitarian problems.
The migration surge of the past few years has also caused problems in the U.S. Social services and shelters in Texas and Arizona cities have been overwhelmed, mayors say. Even some cities far from the border, like Chicago and New York, have struggled to handle the influx. “The president and the White House have failed New York City on this issue,” Mayor Eric Adams of New York, a Democrat, said last month. “Why are you doing this to New York?”
In response, the Biden administration has changed its approach. In early January, Biden announced a tougher policy meant to keep out migrants from Venezuela, Cuba, Haiti and Nicaragua who did not have a good claim of political oppression. The policy also provided new opportunities to come to the U.S. legally.
Read the rest of the article: What are the challenges and trade-offs facing Mr. Biden as he tries to address the humanitarian crisis at the border, along with pressures from his political left and right?
Imagine you are an adviser to the president. What approach would you recommend he take on immigration? What should he do to address the current situation at the southern U.S. border with Mexico?
For example, should the Biden administration push for greater border security? Allow for more asylum seekers to enter the U.S. each year, especially from troubled countries in the Western Hemisphere, such as Venezuela, Cuba and Haiti? Provide more federal support for cities, districts and states to better handle the influx of migrants? Or, perhaps, would you advise Mr. Biden to step back from the current crisis and push Congress to enact comprehensive immigration reform?
To help formulate your recommendation, you might read one or more of the Times articles and Opinion essays below: