White House Considers Lifting Rule That Blocked Migrants During Pandemic

“This piecemeal approach doesn’t cut it,” said Denise Bell, a researcher for Amnesty International’s refugee and migrant rights program. “How many carve-outs until you have to admit there is no good public health rationale for Title 42?”

Lifting the public health rule could lead to some bottlenecks along the border, but it could also ease pressure on the Department of Health and Human Services, which is overseeing the care of unaccompanied migrant children who have been arriving in record numbers.

As of Thursday, about 14,500 such children were being held in government shelters, according to internal government data obtained by The Times, as officials try to place them with family members or other sponsors in the United States. Nearly half of the children are staying in emergency shelters where some conditions are far below government standards; the average stay is currently 37 days.

“When families were pushed back, sometimes they’d make that extraordinarily difficult choice to send their child ahead, with the hope that as an unaccompanied child migrating alone, they’d have a better chance of being accepted and processed through,” said Wendy Young, the president of a nonprofit, Kids in Need of Defense. “It’s a horrible choice that families have to make, but we did see families doing exactly that.”

Without the public health rule, families may again start trying to cross the border together — a better option, Ms. Young said, than being placed in the large emergency shelters overseen by the health and human services department.

Ms. Harris, who will travel to El Paso on Friday with Alejandro N. Mayorkas, the homeland security secretary, is leading the administration’s efforts to help improve conditions in Central America, where many of the children are coming from, to deter migration.

For weeks, Republicans have pressed Ms. Harris about why she traveled to Central America this month, but not to the American side of the border with Mexico. Her visit comes just days before Mr. Trump goes to the border with a group of Republicans, including Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas, who has pledged to finish Mr. Trump’s border wall in his state after Mr. Biden halted construction. Mr. Abbott has also threatened to kick thousands of migrant children out of shelters there.

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