Migrants are seen at a hostel in Piedras Negras, Mexico

Migrants are seen at a hostel in Piedras Negras, Mexico on February 8, 2019.

(Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Biden's Expansion of Title 42 Violates International Law: UN

"Wherever they come from. Whenever they are forced to flee. Everyone has the right to seek asylum," said U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres.

The United Nations refugee agency warned Friday that the Biden administration's new expansion of Title 42, the Trump-era policy under which the U.S. government has expelled more than 2.5 million migrants, is "not in line with refugee law standards" that the administration is obligated to follow under international law.

The White House announced on Thursday that it will be sending up to 30,000 people from Cuba, Haiti, and Nicaragua to Mexico per month unless they arrive in the U.S. via a humanitarian parole program, while allowing 30,000 asylum-seekers from each of the three countries to live and work in the U.S. for two years if they meet certain requirements, such as being able to afford a plane ticket and finding sponsorship. President Joe Biden implored people not to arrive at the U.S.-Mexico border without being authorized to enter the country.

Rights advocates have said the policy will leave the most vulnerable people without the option of finding safety in the United States, while the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reminded the administration that "seeking asylum is a fundamental human right."

"This week's policy announcements are completely out of touch with the actual circumstances of people seeking asylum, many of whom arrive at our border fleeing imminent threats to their lives."

UNHCR spokesperson Boris Cheshirkov said Friday that while the U.N. applauded the administration's plan to welcome tens of thousands of people into the country each month, the U.S. "must not preclude people forced to flee from exercising their fundamental human right to seek safety."

While U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres on Thursday did not directly address Biden's new measures, he appeared to comment on them indirectly on social media, tweeting, "Everyone has the right to seek asylum."

Melissa Crow, director of litigation for the U.S.-based Center for Gender and Refugee Studies, called the Title 42 expansion "reckless" and warned it will "exact a horrific human toll and leave a lasting stain on the president's legacy."

"This week's policy announcements are completely out of touch with the actual circumstances of people seeking asylum, many of whom arrive at our border fleeing imminent threats to their lives," Crow said. "By doubling down on illegal, Trump-era asylum bans, the Biden administration totally disregards the United States' legal obligations to protect people fleeing persecution and torture. It has been deeply disturbing to hear the president affirm that seeking asylum is legal, pledge to create a safe and humane process at the border, and then turn around and announce policies that further undermine access to the U.S. asylum process."

While Biden's humanitarian parole program may help hundreds of thousands of people this year, said Guerline Jozef, executive director of the Haitian Bridge Alliance, it "should not have come at the expense of barring others from exercising their rights to asylum."

"We are also extremely concerned that the new parole program will be inaccessible to the most vulnerable among us, particularly those en route to the U.S. border who will be ineligible for this program," said Jozef. "We can have a fair, orderly, and humane immigration system that welcomes all with dignity and that is rooted in justice and language access."

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