Former HHS chief of staff takes Biden to court over halt to migrant ban - cites added risk of COVID

A former member of the Trump administration turned to a federal court Monday to ask that the Biden administration resume the expulsion of unaccompanied minors at the border. Brian Harrison, former chief of staff to HHS Secretary Alex Azar during the Trump administration argues that Biden has not explained a legal rationale to reverse Title 42, the no-exception expulsion policy during a pandemic.

Harrison was chief of staff at the Department of Health and Human Services until Jan. 20. He was part of the Trump administration’s team that oversaw the use of Title 42 at the border and the handling of unaccompanied minors. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the CDC invoked Title 42 as a matter of public health policy at the request of Vice-President Pence and acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf. Pence coordinated the White House coronavirus task force. Democrats accused Trump of using draconian measures to get control of the southern border and Biden joined in the chorus of open border leftists who called the action xenophobic and racist.

“We took our public health authority and we secured the border, because we knew we were in the middle of a COVID pandemic,” he said. “We knew it was the worst possible time to have our borders be wide open for thousands upon thousands of illegal immigrants as well as COVID-19 because it was a way to introduce the country to the virus while we were trying to contain it and defeat it.”

The action taken by Harrison includes the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). The APA requires federal agencies to justify policy changes, which Harrison claims the Biden administration has no done. He filed in federal court in Amarillo using both the arguments that Title 42 should be in effect and the Biden administration has not made a proper case to halt its use. Ironically, Trump critics often used APA against him, including when he cut funding for Obama-era policies. Anyone can invoke the APA against policy changes they think didn’t go through proper procedures. The Biden administration claims it is well within its rights to do away with Trump’s policy of using Title 42 to prevent the spread of the coronavirus across the border into border states.

The Biden administration justifies the halt to Title 42 at the border as a more humane way of treating unaccompanied minors. Border security hawks call malarkey on that reasoning. The use of emotion over practical reasoning is providing the exploitation of children (and women) by coyotes and drug cartels. Parents and other adults are sending children north to the U.S. border knowing that they will be taken in and provided for by ICE and HHS. The crisis on the border continues to escalate because of the mixed messaging coming from Team Biden. Joe Biden owns this chaos and Harrison wants him held accountable. In February the CDC published notice that it would suspend the use of Title 42 and reassess its use going forward during a pandemic. That assessment has not been produced yet.

Harrison is running for Congress now. He is among 23 candidates seeking to fill the seat left vacant after the death of Congressman Ron Wright, who died in February from a short battle with COVID-19. Governor Abbott called a special election for May 1. He cites the unnecessary public health risks presented by the flood of unaccompanied minors at the border. Children in shelters are testing positive for COVID-19. He isn’t so much concerned about himself as he is for others. He’s young and healthy and will take the vaccine when it is available to him. He praises Team Trump’s work on Operation Warp Speed.

“As a result of this announcement, the Southwest Border has been flooded with illegal alien children, most of whom escape detention and many of whom carry COVID-19 and migrate north into the heartland of Texas,” Harrison’s complaint states. “Because thousands of alien children are being held in, and released into, areas of Texas, including near Ellis County, the Exception increases the risk that Plaintiff Harrison contracts COVID-19.”

Harrison, who lives in Midlothian, does not contend that he faces any special elevated risk from COIVD. He’s 38 and healthy. He has not been vaccinated but intends to get vaccinated when he can.

“Given my age, I don’t believe I qualify,” he said, but “I would absolutely take the vaccine. I was very, very proud of the work that we did in the Trump administration with Operation Warp Speed.”

Harrison said he is not filing the court challenge as a congressional candidate but “as a concerned citizen” who served until Jan. 20 at the side of the secretary of HHS in the Trump administration.

Harrison has a co-plaintiff, an Amarillo man named Steven Pace. The defendants in the case are those in the Biden administration directly responsible for the implementation of the policies at the border – HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, and CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky.

Will any of this legal action help Harrison in his campaign to win the seat in Congress? Maybe. He denies it is the reason he is doing it but standing up for the Trump administration’s successful policies at the southern border, including mitigation of the threat of the coronavirus crossing the border, will likely play well to his potential constituents in Texas. The field of candidates is crowded and his own professional experience working for former HHS Secretary Alex Azar separates him from the others. Harrison says the use of Title 42 was “arguably the most important thing we did to secure the border” while organizations like the ACLU claim the Trump administration used a pandemic as a weapon to squash immigration. That argument is disingenuous as the immigration in question is illegal immigration, that of those breaking the law to come across the border with a sense of entitlement. Harrison’s campaign rhetoric in this instance points to a change in course that Biden could make today if he so chooses. Instead, Team Biden continues to gaslight Americans and deny that there is a crisis. As long as the current Homeland Security secretary claims the border is closed and Team Biden has everything under control, the crisis will continue to dangerously spiral out of control.