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Migrants seeking asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border

Asylum-seekers prepare to be taken to a U.S. Border Patrol processing facility after crossing into the U.S. on June 16, 2021 in La Joya, Texas. (Photo: Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

Rights Groups Herald Reported End to Cruel Title 42 Expulsions

"Title 42 was never about public health and safety," said Rep. Juan Vargas. "It was implemented to deny due process to people seeking refuge and protection."

Kenny Stancil

Human rights defenders on Wednesday welcomed the White House's reported plans to soon end the use of Title 42, a public health measure both the Biden and Trump administrations used to turn away asylum-seekers at the southern border for the past two years.

"The decision is an overdue recognition that all people fleeing violence and persecution have the right to seek protection."

The Wall Street Journal, which obtained a draft of the order that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) plans to issue later this week, reported Wednesday that the agency "is taking the step because 'there is no longer a serious danger' that migrants would introduce or spread Covid-19 inside immigration detention facilities."

While praising President Joe Biden for finally moving to end Title 42—invoked in March 2020 by former President Donald Trump at the behest of his white nationalist advisor Stephen Miller, who took advantage of the coronavirus pandemic to clamp down on the asylum process—immigrant rights group Never Again Action lamented that the current administration spent one and a half years embracing a policy that equates migrants with disease.

According to the Journal, "The CDC is delaying the implementation of the order until May 23 to allow the Department of Homeland Security to prepare for what the government anticipates will be a sharp rise in crossings this spring."

Immigrant rights advocate Erika Andiola, meanwhile, argued that "nothing is keeping them from ending this today. From now to May, thousands of people will be unjustly denied asylum and deported back to danger."

As the Journal reported: "Once Title 42 comes to an end, the government will once more need to consider any asylum claims made by migrants at the border, which requires briefly detaining them before they can be released into the U.S. or deported. Under Title 42, any migrant asking for humanitarian protection could still be expelled back to Mexico or deported to another country without a consideration of their claims, though in practice Mexico limited how many people it was willing to take back."

For months, progressive lawmakers and advocacy groups have urged the Biden administration to stop using the Trump-era policy, which has caused migrants to be deported from the U.S. without a chance to request asylum more than 1.7 million times during a two-year period.

"This will save lives."

"Migrants have been cruelly expelled from our country under the guise of Title 42," Rep. Juan Vargas (D-Calif.) said Wednesday. "Title 42 was never about public health and safety—it was implemented to deny due process to people seeking refuge and protection."

Rep. Mondaire Jones (D-N.Y.) celebrated Biden's move on social media and said, "Thanks to the advocates whose tireless work made this possible."

Krish O'Mara Vignarajah, president of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, the nation's largest faith-based nonprofit dedicated exclusively to serving refugees, asylum-seekers, and other vulnerable immigrant groups in the U.S., said in a statement that "we are grateful that this long and shameful chapter in our nation's history is coming to end."

"The decision is an overdue recognition that all people fleeing violence and persecution have the right to seek protection," said O'Mara Vignarajah. "The implications for thousands of extremely vulnerable individuals and families cannot be overstated, but are simple to understand—this will save lives and restore U.S. humanitarian leadership."

While welcoming the news, RAICES, the largest immigration legal services nonprofit in Texas, said that Biden's task now is to "undo the Migrant Protection Protocols and ALL of Trump and Stephen Miller's racist immigration policies."

When Biden announced in December that he was restarting the so-called Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) program, commonly referred to as the "Remain in Mexico" policy, human rights advocates rebuked the president for implementing an "even worse" version of the Trump-era measure, which forces asylum-seekers to wait in makeshift camps along the southern border pending legal review of their cases. His administration is now seeking to end MPP.

As the Biden White House terminates Title 42 "and restores access to asylum, there is an opportunity to do more than return to the status quo," said O'Mara Vignarajah. "The administration should be thoughtful and bold in implementing a new vision, rooted in fairness, dignity, and humanity."


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