ICE Deportation

A handcuffed and shackled undocumented Guatemalan immigrant in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody waits to board a deportation flight in Mesa, Arizona. (Photo: John Moore/Getty Images)

Groups Say Congress Must 'Fiercely Reject' Cruel Attack on Asylum-Seekers

"Lawmakers have a moral imperative to oppose this legislation and any anti-asylum proposal that would keep Title 42 in place," a letter from hundreds of faith groups and leaders asserted.

Hundreds of faith-based and civil rights groups and leaders across the United States on Tuesday called on members of Congress to "fiercely reject" a "dangerous" bill that would codify a rule used to deport more than 1.7 million asylum-seekers under pretext of the Covid-19 pandemic.

"Lawmakers have a moral imperative to oppose this legislation and any anti-asylum proposal that would keep Title 42 in place."

In a letter to congressional lawmakers, the Interfaith Immigration Coalition praised President Joe Biden's plan to stop deporting asylum-seeking migrants under the Title 42 public health provision, which was invoked during the presidency of Donald Trump at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic and continued by the current administration.

"We are called to love and welcome our neighbors," the signers assert. "Our faith traditions call us to welcome vulnerable people with warmth and open arms, and we call on members of Congress to do the same."

The letter expressed deep concerns regarding the Public Health and Border Security Act of 2022 (S. 4036/H.R. 7458), which would prohibit the government from terminating Title 42 provisions until 60 days after the end of the national Covid-19 emergency declaration. On Monday, a federal judge granted a temporary restraining order blocking the Biden administration from lifting Title 42.

The proposed legislation--introduced in the House by Rep. Jared Golden (D-Maine) and in the upper chamber by Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.)--comes amid backlash over ending Title 42, not only from Republicans but also from moderate and conservative Democratic lawmakers during the 2022 midterm election season.

"This bill raises the threshold to rescind the public health authority known as Title 42 to an impossible standard," the letter states. "Maintaining Title 42 amounts to more suffering for asylum-seekers patiently waiting their chance to legally ask for protection."

"We believe it is possible to safely and humanely receive asylum-seekers while safeguarding public health," the signers assert. "Lawmakers have a moral imperative to oppose this legislation and any anti-asylum proposal that would keep Title 42 in place."

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a coalition of more than 230 national organizations, also sent a letter to members of Congress on Tuesday imploring them to reject any attempts to extend Title 42, which signatory Haitian Bridge Alliance called "arbitrary, racist, and illegal."

"The misuse of Title 42 is one of the most urgent civil and human rights issues of our day, and we urge you to stand with immigrants and welcome all with dignity," the letter states. "All members of Congress should reject legislative efforts to extend Title 42 or continue tying this wholesale policy failure to the essential public health funding needed to end the pandemic. Congress must take a step in the right direction to establish a humane asylum system."

Also on Tuesday, the National Partnership for New Americans--a coalition of nearly 50 immigrant and refugee advocacy groups and a signatory to the Leadership Conference letter--called on the Biden administration to "protect the internationally recognized human right to claim asylum and ensure equity and fairness in the U.S. humanitarian protection systems."

"Title 42 was never about public health; instead, it was a disgraceful manifestation of an anti-immigrant, anti-asylum agenda that does not represent a nation that embraces the values of a welcome and safe harbor, integrity, and fairness," Nejra Sumic, national field manager for coalition member We Are All America, said in a statement. "It's time for this policy to end--and for lawmakers to get to work in responding to unprecedented levels of global displacement with consistent, compassionate policies that support refugees, asylum-seekers, and others seeking protection."

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