A coalition of 87 advocacy groups on Wednesday called on top Biden administration officials to end Title 42, a border management policy that limits the right to claim asylum under the guise of pandemic protections.
In a letter to President Biden and other top administration officials, the groups said continued implementation of the policy is driving a wedge between them and the Democratic administration.
“The ongoing use of Title 42 undermines our trust in the administration as in early June 2021, reports indicated that the administration was considering lifting the policy for families and single adults by the end of that summer. These plans seem to have been abandoned,” wrote the advocates, led by Haitian Bridge Alliance and the Immigration Hub.
The letter was also addressed to Vice President Harris, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, Domestic Policy Council Director Susan Rice, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle Wollensky.
Title 42 was originally implemented by the Trump administration, as part of what immigration advocacy organizations see as a ploy to leverage the pandemic to impose restrictions on the asylum process.
An investigation by American Oversight found that Stephen Miller, the architect of Trump’s immigration policy, was a driving force in getting the CDC to issue the order.
“The Trump administration weaponized the COVID-19 pandemic to justify the expulsion of asylum seekers to Mexico or their countries of origin without any assessment of their protection needs, in direct violation of domestic and international law, and the Biden administration has continued to rely on this fallacy,” wrote the groups.
Immigrant rights groups have consistently asked the Biden administration to revoke the policy, which is up for review at the end of March.
The letter also notes that groups of public health experts have spoken out against the policy, casting further doubt on claims that it serves a sanitary purpose.
Administration officials were quoted by Axios earlier this month saying they fear a “mass migration event” if the order is lifted, but officials on the record have consistently pointed to the CDC’s public health authority as the reasoning behind the policy.
The CDC has exempted families and children from the policy, but two contradicting federal court rulings have further muddied the reasoning behind the policy.
Mexican and some Central American migrants processed under Title 42 are quickly returned across the border to Mexico, a situation that’s lowered the costs of unauthorized crossings between ports of entry and led to recidivism.
That’s inflated the border apprehension numbers – a key political indicator of border activity that the administration seeks to lower.
Migrants from other countries where repatriation is difficult, like Cuba, China and Venezuela, end up circumventing Title 42, and are more likely to be able to make an asylum claim.
That’s also led advocates to call Title 42 a discriminatory policy, as it has disproportionately affected Black migrants, particularly those from Haiti.
While immigrant activists have applauded the Biden administration’s decision to exempt many Ukrainian asylum seekers from the policy, for instance, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has brought down the hammer on Haitian asylum seekers, repatriating more than 20,000 to a country on the brink of collapse.
“Many expelled Haitians arrived sick, handcuffed, hungry, traumatized, and disoriented only to find themselves in another ‘humanitarian nightmare,'” wrote the groups.
“Haiti is still recovering and rebuilding from devastating 2010 and 2021 earthquakes, tropical storms, fires, and is now in an ongoing political crisis – where gang violence is used as a political tool, and victims in entire neighborhoods often have no recourse to the justice system. It is illegal and unconscionable to expel Haitians to Haiti now, but it continues without any assessment of their fear,” they added.
The continued implementation of Title 42 has also created a political rift between the Biden administration and its allies in Congress, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Sen. Bob Menéndez (D-N.J.), who joined with two other senators in condemning Title 42.
And it threatens to drive a wedge between Biden and Black voters – a key constituency for Democrats – as Black immigrant communities bear the brunt of the Trump-era policy.
“Given the disproportionate impact Title 42 expulsion policy has on Black asylum seekers, many coming from the continent of Africa, Haiti, the Caribbean, and elsewhere, the decision to continue its use demonstrates that the administration is willing to sidestep U.S. refugee and international laws to preserve illegal policies set by a predecessor,” wrote the advocates.
“In addition, the administration’s recent decisions to narrow the application of Title 42 so that, apparently, preferred refugees are permitted entry, can only be described as unjustifiable and arbitrary,” they added.