Is California ready to end Title 42?

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SAN PEDRO SULA, HONDURAS - JANUARY 15: The silhouette of Honduran migrants as they walk at 4:30 a.m. towards the Guatemalan border on January 15, 2021 in San Pedro Sula, Honduras. The caravan plans to walk across Guatemala and Mexico to eventually reach the United States. Central Americans expect to receive asylum and most Hondurans decided to migrate after being hit by recent hurricanes Eta and Iota. Honduras recently asked to U.S. to extend their Temporary Protected Status. (Photo by Milo Espinoza/Getty Images)

TIJUANA, BAJA CALIFORNIA.- The US Supreme Court’s latest move allows a short-term reprieve to an anticipated increase in asylum seekers trying to cross from Mexico into California and other states, but recent confusion at the border is a preview of what may soon come should a pandemic-era measure known as Title 42 be lifted in 2023.

The situation, and its use as a political backdrop, has prompted local officials to ask what state resources will be available next year with California facing a potential budget shortfall and the possibility that Title 42 will end.

Title 42 is a Trump-era immigration policy that has continued under President Joe Biden. It allows border agents to rapidly expel migrants at official ports of entry during public health emergencies. The policy has resulted in the expulsion of tens of thousands of people seeking asylum and has discouraged many others from crossing the border.

The policy states that if the U.S. surgeon general determines there is a communicable disease in another country, health officials have the authority, with the approval of the president, to prohibit “the introduction of persons and property from such countries or places” for as long as health officials determine that action is necessary.

The measure had been set to lift last week by order of a federal court, which would have allowed many asylum-seekers waiting in limbo at the border to go ahead and cross into the United States. Some experts say that because smugglers in Mexico use any shift in U.S. immigration policy to exploit migrants, mere conversation about the possibility of lifting Title 42 triggered even more people to try to cross into the U.S. in recent weeks.

The US Supreme Court’s brief order Tuesday stayed — meaning delayed — the trial judge’s ruling that would have lifted Title 42 until the high court hears arguments in the case in February. The political and legal ping-pong in the case is hard enough for U.S. audiences to follow, making it nearly impossible to explain south of the border.