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Title 42 at the border

A 7-month-old migrant from Mexico is held by a family member as asylum-seeking migrants wear face coverings at a worship service in the Agape migrant shelter on July 22, 2021 in Tijuana, Mexico. Over 300 migrants at the time were waiting at the shelter for the opportunity to apply for asylum in the United States. While the Biden administration haltingly restarted the asylum system along the southwest border, only to backtrack and further embrace policies of the Trump era, thousands of individuals and families seeking asylum seekers remain stuck in Mexico in precarious conditions. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Human Rights Defenders Warn Biden Border Policy 'Quickly Transforming Into Trump 2.0'

Like his predecessor, President Joe Biden now being accused of "using racist, xenophobic tropes about immigrants to weaponize Covid-19 against migrants and asylum-seekers."

Jon Queally

Human rights champions decried a Friday announcement by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that it was extending what critical experts call the wholly misguided Title 42 border program that allows officials to exploit public health fears as a way to block lawful and protected efforts by asylum-seekers to seek refuge in the United States.

"Instead of guaranteeing protection and care to asylum seekers, as the U.S. is legally obligated to do, the Biden administration is actively choosing to use cruelty to supposedly 'deter' those who had no choice in fleeing for their lives."

Since the rule was first implemented in 2020 by former President Donald Trump—widely condemned as "racist" and "xenophobic" opportunism at the time—rights advocates have repeatedly cited public health experts who note the U.S government has more than adequate resources and tools, even during the current pandemic, to safely process people seeking protection under the nation's asylum laws.

"Public health advocates, including former officials from the CDC, have long contended that Title 42 has no public health rationale," said Amy Fischer, Americas advocacy director at Amnesty International USA, in a statement Friday evening. "Instead, it serves as a politically-motivated tool, using racist, xenophobic tropes about immigrants to weaponize Covid-19 against migrants and asylum-seekers."

Friday's decision came just one day after the White House announced the reimplementation of the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), commonly known as the "Remain in Mexico" program, which similarly spurred denunciations from refugee and migrant rights groups.

The Remain in Mexico policy, said Fernando Garcia, executive director of the Border Network for Human Rights, "is a failed program that has cost the lives of children, families, and individuals by putting them in dangerous and violent situations without access to shelter, food, medicine, and legal support."

With Remain in Mexico set to go back into effect as early as Monday, Garcia said vulnerable families "are now being sent back to a country where violent cartels and organized crime have killed their relatives. Migrants are not safe in Ciudad Juarez, Tijuana, Matamoros, Reynosa, or any other border city where they are subject to violence and possible extortion."

Warning that the current White House is at risk of implementing a border regime as bad as its predecessor, Garcia said, "it is incomprehensible that an administration that has committed to humane and orderly asylum processes is now pursuing anti-immigrant actions and quickly transforming into Trump 2.0.”

"If the Biden administration truly wants to commit to its campaign promises," she said, "it must promptly stop expulsions under the pretense of public health, permanently end MPP, and commit to safe and humane refugee processing instead of continuing anti-immigrant and discriminatory Trump-era policies."

Nancy Treviño, associate director for network power for Alianza Americas, expressed similar outrage.

"Remain in Mexico could have and should have ended on Biden's first day in office," she said in a Friday statement. "Instead of guaranteeing protection and care to asylum seekers, as the U.S. is legally obligated to do, the Biden administration is actively choosing to use cruelty to supposedly 'deter' those who had no choice in fleeing for their lives. President Biden must use its executive power to terminate MPP to truly protect asylum seekers and rebuild our asylum system so it protects the human rights of those seeking safety and a better life. We are selling out our humanity and values as a nation for the sake of Biden scoring ostensible political points on border issues."

"People in search of safety need access to asylum without delay. The Biden administration must stop failing asylum-seekers and restore access to asylum by ending Title 42 and MPP now."

According to Fischer at Amnesty, the dual policies of Remain and Mexico and the "egregious" extension of Title 42 represent a shocking betrayal of human rights as well as Biden's own campaign promises.

"President Biden promised that in his first 100 days as president, he would end the Trump administration's detrimental asylum policies and ‘ensure that the U.S. remains open and welcoming to people from every part of the world.' Now, over 300 days since President Biden’s inauguration, asylum-seekers are endangered by the very policies he pledged to end on the campaign trail," said Fischer.

"People in search of safety need access to asylum without delay," she added. "The Biden administration must stop failing asylum-seekers and restore access to asylum by ending Title 42 and MPP now."


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