GOP senators, led by Hagerty, re-introduce bill to expand Title 42 as order’s end approaches

FIRST ON FOX: A group of Republican senators, led by Sen. Bill Hagerty, R-Tenn., are re-introducing legislation that would allow Title 42 public health to be used to protect the U.S. from drug smuggling — just as the order’s use due to the COVID-19 pandemic is about to end. The Stop Fentanyl Border Crossings Act would add the prevention of drug smuggling as an additional justification for the use of Title 42 — which gives border agents the authority to quickly expel migrants at the southern border. It is currently only allowed to prevent communicable diseases. The order has been in place since March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and will soon end on May 11 along with the public health emergency for the pandemic. Its looming end has renewed fears from lawmakers and officials that the end of the order will be followed by a fresh migrant surge at the southern border. Now, the GOP lawmakers are arguing that the order can be justified to help tackle the ongoing fentanyl crisis, which is responsible for the deaths of over 70,000 a year. The drug, which can be fatal in small doses, is smuggled across the U.S. land border after being produced in Mexico using Chinese precursors. BIDEN ADMIN SEES PROGRESS IN TACKLING BORDER CRISIS AS MARCH’S NUMBERS DOWN FROM LAST YEAR “70,000 Americans are dying annually from drug overdoses—most from deadly fentanyl flooding across our collapsed southern border,” Hagerty said in a statement. “With the Biden Administration pushing to end Title 42 in May, it is unconscionable for Congress to stand aside and do nothing to preserve it.” “And while I agree that the pandemic is over, there is a new epidemic plaguing our nation—one that demands immediate action,” he said. “We cannot afford to allow this shockingly-lethal drug to continue wreaking havoc on our communities and killing our youth. Congress must take up and pass this commonsense legislation without delay—too many innocent American lives hang in the balance.” Cosponsoring the legislation are Senators Jim Risch, R-Idaho, Mike Lee, R-Utah, Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Miss., Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., Steve Daines, R-Mont., Roger Marshall, R-Kansas, Ted Budd, R-N.C., Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., and Todd Young, R-Ind. BIDEN ADMIN PAUSES KEY ASYLUM SHAKEUP AHEAD OF TITLE 42’S EXPIRATION NEXT MONTH  “The fentanyl crisis is a real public health emergency that has hit far too close to home,” Blackburn said. “From August 2021 to August 2022, over 107,000 people died of drug overdoses in the United States – with 66% of those deaths involving synthetic opioids such as fentanyl. Expanding Title 42 to include drug smuggling will give U.S. Border Patrol agents a necessary tool to significantly curb this Biden-fueled crisis and keep Americans safer.” Hagerty has previously introduced the bill three times in 2022, but it has not moved forward even despite some bipartisan concern about the effects of ending Title 42 from moderate Democrats in the chamber. He said that Border Patrol agents he has spoken to have warned that Title 42 is the last tool left for slowing down the migrants and drugs coming across the border. WITH TITLE 42’S END A MONTH AWAY, BIDEN ADMIN MAKING MOVES TO DEAL WITH SURGE Meanwhile, the Biden administration has been making preparations for the end of the order. In March it announced a proposed rule that would make migrants ineligible for asylum if they have crossed into the U.S. illegally and have failed to claim asylum in a country through which they previously traveled. In anticipation of the order dropping, the administration has also temporarily paused an asylum reform that would allow asylum officers to adjudicate asylum claims at the border within months. It has also launched a pilot program to have migrants hold their “credible fear” interviews while still in CBP custody 
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