The impact of Title 42 on disease prevention and migrants' well-being

May 17, 2023

Title 42 was implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic under the Trump administration with the aim of restricting the entry of migrants into the United States, citing concerns over potential disease spread and resource strain. 

However, the effectiveness of this measure in preventing illness remains questionable. While some argue maintaining Title 42 is crucial for safeguarding public health, others contended it infringed upon human rights and should have never been implemented.

Ann Chih Lin, Ford School associate professor of public policy, places a strong emphasis on the effective implementation of policies within the context of racial and ethnic diversity. Her recent efforts probe into the examination of national, racial and ethnic disparities in beliefs, behavior and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

What is the impact of Title 42 on illness prevention and disease spread in the United States, particularly in relation to migrants?

There's very little evidence that Title 42 prevented illness from spreading in the U.S. or that the expiration of Title 42 will spread disease. The people most at risk of disease are the migrants themselves.

What are some concerns and risks associated with migrants who do not have a legal visa to enter the U.S. and the conditions they face at the U.S.-Mexico border?

Many migrants who do not have a legal visa to enter the U.S. are marginalized people in their own countries. Others become vulnerable due to the conditions at the U.S.-Mexico border, where there is inadequate shelter, sanitation, safety and access to food and water. These conditions can lead to higher rates of illness, including communicable diseases. Ending Title 42 does nothing to treat these illnesses or to reduce their incidence. There is concern that migrants who are released into the U.S. to await an asylum hearing might be ill, and then spread their illness to others around them. Generally, though, the greatest risk is not to the health of people who are in the U.S. but to the health of the migrants themselves.

What are some concerns regarding the admission and health care provision for migrants allowed into the U.S. to await asylum hearings?

The best thing that can happen is that migrants who are allowed into the U.S. to await asylum hearings are also given a health inspection when they are admitted, and referred to health care if they are sick. But the resources available at the border are strained and the health care available is likely to be inadequate.

What are your thoughts on the end of Title 42?

The end of Title 42 removes a tool that the president's administration has used to quickly evaluate and expel migrants who have entered the U.S. without a legal visa. Now that Title 42 has expired, migrants should be able to make a legal claim for asylum despite not having a legal visa. This is in accord with international law and thus is a protection for marginalized people who are being persecuted in their countries of origin.

This faculty Q&A was written by Juan Ochoa of Michigan News.