Aug 02, 2021
A week after the Biden administration signaled its willingness to go to great lengths to expel refugees from the U.S. with its adoption of an "expedited removal" procedure at the southern border, several human rights groups announced Monday that they are taking the White House to court over its denial of due process to migrants.
"The administration is choosing to treat refugees like political pawns, and so we are eager to return to court so we can end Title 42 for families once and for all."
--Noah Gottschalk, Oxfam America
The ACLU, RAICES, and Oxfam are among the groups who said they are returning to court with a lawsuit first initiated against the Trump administration for its use of a provision known as Title 42 in order to carry out expedited deportations during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Trump administration claimed it had authority under Title 42 to invoke the Public Health Service Act of 1944 in order to keep asylum-seekers and other immigrants out of the U.S. in the name of public health.
Rights groups have called on President Joe Biden to end the use of Title 42, but last week advocates were outraged when DHS announced that instead of revoking the policy, it would begin using expedited removal to quickly deport families who Mexican officials have refused to accept.
\u201cWe warned the Biden administration that we'd see them in court if they continued to misuse Title 42 to unlawfully expel people seeking protection at the southern border.\n\nWe meant it.\u201d— ACLU (@ACLU) 1627920334
The organizations filed a joint motion (pdf) in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, saying they "seek to resume litigation" as discussions over the policy between the groups and the government "have reached an impasse."
The ACLU said the Trump administration implemented Title 42 "in violation of longstanding immigration statutes requiring that asylum seekers receive a full and fair proceeding to determine their right to protection in the United States," and denounced the Biden administration for doing the same in the first six months of Biden's presidency.
"We gave the Biden administration more than enough time to fix any problems left behind by the Trump administration, but it has left us no choice but to return to court," said Lee Gelernt, the lead attorney on the case. "Families' lives are at stake."
According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), Customs and Border Protection carried out more than 642,700 expulsions under Title 42 between March 2020 and April 2021, "typically without conducting the required screenings."
"The consequences of returning asylum seekers to danger can be catastrophic--resulting in sexual assault, torture, and death," the group said.
According to HRW, "Congress specifically kept any reference to immigrants or immigration out of the law's text because of concerns that public health authority could be used to discriminate against immigrants."
"It's beyond cruel to use an obscure public health rule to turn away families seeking safety without due process and functionally shut down our asylum system--it's illegal," said Karla Marisol Vargas, a senior attorney at the Texas Civil Rights Project, which is joining the ACLU as a plaintiff in the lawsuit.
Oxfam America added that the continued use of Title 42 "won't stop the spread of COVID or prevent people who are literally fleeing for their lives from seeking safety in the U.S."
"The administration is choosing to treat refugees like political pawns, and so we are eager to return to court so we can end Title 42 for families once and for all," said Noah Gottschalk, global policy lead for the organization.
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