GOP senators oppose COVID safety rules — except those that restrict immigration

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Senate Republicans are objecting to the Biden administration's decision to lift a Trump-era rule that kept asylum-seekers out of the country.

Senate Republicans are livid about reports that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will lift a temporary pandemic rule that keeps asylum-seekers out of the country. But the same GOP lawmakers have pushed to lift virtually every other COVID-19 safety rule, claiming the national emergency is over.

The New York Times reported on Tuesday that the executive branch plans to end the two-year-old public health order — issued by President Donald Trump's administration under Title 42 of the U.S. Code — restricting the rights of migrants to ask for asylum in the United States if they come from countries where the coronavirus is present (which is nearly all of them).

Before and after the report, GOP senators have been railing against such a move.

"Ending Title 42 would be a disaster for the already chaotic #BidenBorderCrisis," tweeted Tennessee Sen. Marsha Blackburn. "It's time for Biden to do the right thing, and prioritize our border security."

"If it is true that the Biden Administration is talking about repealing Title 42 authority to deport illegal immigrants due to COVID, it would be a nightmare on multiple levels," agreed Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. "It sends a signal encouraging even more illegal immigration, putting the problem on steroids."

Oklahoma Sen. James Lankford announced that he would obstruct President Joe Biden's homeland security efforts to retaliate for the decision. "Biden's plan to lift Title 42 at our border is a recipe for chaos during an already out of control crisis at our border," he said. "I will object to all DHS nominations that Leader Schumer brings to the floor until DHS provides us a plan that will end the chaos."

Title 42, which was enacted in 1944, states that the U.S. government may prohibit or restrict immigrants' entry if the surgeon general determines "there is serious danger" of a disease being introduced into the United States from a foreign country, and if that danger is "increased by the introduction of persons or property from such country that a suspension of the right to introduce such persons and property is required in the interest of the public health."

Trump, who spent most of his administration trying to find ways to block even legal immigration, invoked the rule in March 2020 as an excuse to expel people seeking asylum at the southern border.

The move had little basis in science. The coronavirus was already in the United States and spread without control as Trump refused to take the problem seriously. And while public health experts objected that the immigration restrictions would not curb the spread, the Biden administration has so far kept the Trump-era rule in place.

Public health experts have urged the Biden administration to lift the Title 42 restrictions. Dr. Michele Heisler, a professor at the University of Michigan Medical School and School of Public Health, wrote in January that it was past time to get rid of "a cruel and discriminatory policy that does nothing to safeguard public health and instead returns to danger men, women, and children who are doing nothing other than exercising their right to seek asylum."

Congressional Democrats have also called for an end to the policy.

But Republicans have pushed to keep it in place indefinitely — even as they have pushed to ban more effective coronavirus safety rules like face mask, vaccination, and testing requirements.

On March 2, Senate Republicans unanimously backed a resolution authored by Sen. Roger Marshall (R-KS) to deem the U.S. government's coronavirus national state of emergency declaration — which was originally issued by Trump in March 2020 to let the executive branch streamline its pandemic response — "hereby terminated."

"With COVID cases and hospitalizations on the decline, 94 percent of Americans having immunity to COVID, mask mandates falling by the wayside, and 70 percent of Americans agreeing 'it's time we accept that COVID is here to stay' and that 'we just need to get on with our lives,' it's clear we need [a] new approach to COVID as we learn to live with it. That new approach starts with putting an end to the COVID national state of emergency," Marshall said in a Feb. 14 press release.

All but one Senate Republican — Utah Sen. Mitt Romney — voted on March 15 to end mask requirements for airplanes and public transit systems.

"As the entire world is learning to live with COVID, the federal government still uses fearmongering to stubbornly perpetuate its mandates, rather than giving clear-eyed, rational advice on how to best protect yourself from illness," Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, the resolution's author, said. "That is why I forced this vote, and I applaud the Senate for rejecting this nonsense."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.