Migrant rights advocates on Sunday marked the second anniversary of a Trump-era tactic continued by the Biden administration to deport asylum-seekers under pretext of the Covid-19 pandemic by calling for an end to the harmful policy.
“Asylum-seekers have found America’s golden doors shamefully slammed shut on them for two years too many.”
Title 42, a provision of the Public Health Safety Act first invoked by the Trump administration as the coronavirus pandemic began in March 2020, has been used to remove more than one million asylum-seekers—the majority of them during the tenure of President Joe Biden.
Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU Immigrant Rights Project, said in a video marking the ignominious anniversary that Title 42 is “based on a misuse of the public health laws, claiming that we could no longer have asylum-seekers because they could spread Covid. That has been rejected by every public health official who’s looked at it.”
Noting that a federal court this month barred the administration from using Title 42 to expel families fleeing danger, Gelernt implored Biden to end the policy.
“It has been too long and it is causing grave harm to people fleeing persecution and torture,” he said.
Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, president and CEO of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, said in a statement Sunday that “asylum-seekers have found America’s golden doors shamefully slammed shut on them for two years too many.”
“As recently as this week, Ukrainians have also been barred from entry, joining Mexicans, Guatemalans, Hondurans, El Salvadorians, Brazilians, and Haitians as the victims of this enduring refusal to recognize their dignity and right to seek protection,” she noted.
O’Mara Vignarajah continued:
Despite the president’s promises of a humane immigration system, this policy subjects children and families to a litany of horrors in Mexico, including kidnapping, rape, trafficking, torture, and other violent attacks. The Biden administration may have inherited Title 42, but its legacy on immigration is now being defined by the continuation of this disgraceful policy.
People seeking safety are not a public health threat; if any threat exists, it is the one Title 42 poses to our nation’s moral standing and credibility as the world’s humanitarian leader. There is no room for double standards—as the administration eases pandemic restrictions, it must also end the mass expulsion of asylum-seekers in violation of their rights under both international and U.S. law.
“It is long past time we live up to our values and legal obligations by welcoming these children, families, and individuals with dignity and due process,” she added.
Last Tuesday, U.S. Reps. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) and Mondaire Jones (D-N.Y.) sent a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky demanding an end to Title 42 expulsions.
The lawmakers contrasted the administration’s treatment of Haitians—20,000 of whom have been deported despite the ongoing dangers and tumult caused by last year’s presidential assassination, a 7.2-magnitude earthquake, and hurricane that devastated much of the impoverished nation—with that of Ukrainians, who are not being deported due to Russia’s invasion.
“There is every reason to extend that same level of compassion and exercise that same discretion to suspend deportations to Haiti,” Pressley and Jones argued, “and, in light of your own findings about the ongoing humanitarian crisis there, no excuse not to.”