The new Omicron variant of the novel coronavirus spreading worldwide has countries on edge. Experts predict that it’s only a matter of time before it is discovered in the United States.
As the Biden Administration implements measures to slow the transmission of this emergent strain, President Biden must make securing the U.S. southern border a priority and that includes keeping and fully implementing the Trump-era Title 42 health measure.
Questions swirl about Omicron
Omicron, the new strain which was first reported by South Africa, has appeared in Europe days earlier than first thought. According to CNN’s running list of countries with Omicron cases, it appears to be on nearly every continent. There are cases in Canada, so it’s not hard to imagine that there may be undetected cases in Central and South American countries.
More robust testing will confirm how quickly the new strain is spreading, but there are still a host of other questions for us to grapple with: How transmissible is it? Does it cause mild or harsh illness? How effective are vaccines against it? How effective are current treatments in fighting it?
It will take time and research before health officials have more answers. In the meantime, countries ought to assess what public health policies are working.
When it comes to travel, the Biden administration has already banned flights from southern African nations. Yet, what about our borders? Flights are just one mode of travel to the U.S. As we know, immigrants from around the world, including Africa, have come to our southern border seeking entrance.
The southern border is broken
Problems at the U.S. southern border remain. In the fiscal year 2021, a record 1.7 million migrants were apprehended attempting to cross illegally, a sharp rise compared to the 400,000 apprehended in FY 2020.
Despite the feeble warnings by Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris not to come to the southern border, waves of migrants continue to make the perilous journey on the belief that Biden is more welcoming than former President Donald Trump to illegal immigrants.
Reuters reports that a new caravan with hundreds of migrants is making its way to the southern border amidst the spread of this new variant. These migrants coming from Central America and Haiti started at the Guatemala border and began walking north toward the United States. They will be joined by other migrants who plan to expand the caravan. If they are not stopped by Mexican officials, this caravan may very well overwhelm already-stretched border patrol agents. Their health and vaccine statuses are unreported.
The episode of Haitian migrants to the Del Rio area garnered media attention and action by the administration, but since then, it’s back to business as usual.
As I’ve written before, Title 42 is “the only saving grace” at the U.S. southern border. Most single adults and families were expelled to Mexico because of this health policy. President Biden is under significant pressure from liberal lawmakers and activists to overturn what they view as an inhumane policy. However, this policy provides the political cover to turn migrants back rather than giving them all free entry to the U.S.
Soon, he will have to reinstate another important measure to deter illegal crossings, the so-called Remain-in-Mexico policy, which requires that migrants seeking asylum apply from Mexico rather than the U.S.
Now, is not the time for President Biden to yield to activists who don’t acknowledge our national sovereignty or who oppose policies that actually support public health, public safety, and human rights. We need safe, secure borders. Congress must also prioritize immigration reforms that make the process to come to America legally clearer and more expeditious for those granted access, but reforms should not precede border security.
As concerns over the Delta variant waned, calls to overturn Title 42 ramped up. The Omicron variant is a stark reminder that this pandemic health crisis is not over. The U.S. needs strong common-sense immigration policies in place to protect American citizens and residents.