The top U.S. health official on migration told Congress he chose not to bring back a Trump-era border rule that expelled migrants during the COVID-19 pandemic because it would characterize migrants as virus spreaders.
Dr. Marty Cetron, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Preventions (CDC) Division of Global Migration and Quarantine said that he refused to reinstate Title 42, a border rule responsible for expelling millions of migrants to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, during a May interview with the House Select Subcommittee because he believed similar rules led to the scapegoating of certain communities, according to a transcript of the interview. Cetron later refused to sign the order implementing Title 42.
An “epidemic of disease … can be followed by an epidemic — an inappropriate epidemic of stigma and misrepresentation of where the problem is,” Cetron said.
“I was concerned that there may be a motivation that was beyond the specific public health agenda,” Cetron argued.
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The Trump administration began expelling migrants under Title 42 in March 2020. Trump administration aides, including Stephen Miller, pushed for the policy’s implementation, rather than CDC public health experts, Cetron said, according to CBS News.
“It did not originate from CDC,” Cetron told congressional investigators.
Cetron “refused” to sign onto implementing Title 42 because “we could not substantiate that the threat was, quote/unquote, being addressed by this.”
Cetron’s stance is at odds with both the Biden and Trump administration’s public defense of the policy they argued mitigated COVID-19 outbreaks in border facilities, though the Biden administration later pushed to end Title 42.
The CDC announced April 1 that Title 42 would end in May. A federal judge later struck down the Biden administration’s effort just days before it was set to end in a lawsuit brought by several Republican states.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has processed over 2,000,000 migrants that crossed the southern border illegally under Title 42, according to agency statistics.
Cetron, who has been at the CDC for over two decades, requested then-CDC Director Robert Redfield that he be “excused” from the public health policy, according to CBS News.