Legislators, advocates, and medical experts alike have been calling on the Biden administration since Day One to end the anti-asylum Title 42 policy, which was revealed by the Associated Press last October to have been implemented under political pressure from the previous administration. CDC experts at first refused to endorse it, saying there was no public health reason to do so. “That was a Stephen Miller special. He was all over that,” a former Pence aide said in that report. “There was a lot of pressure on DHS and CDC to push this forward.”
But months into the new administration, officials refused to end the policy, instead agreeing during negotiations with the ACLU to ease restrictions and process a small number of vulnerable asylum-seekers at at time. But advocates also continued pressure on the administration to end it outright, noting the harm it has inflicted on Black migrants in particular. Under the policy, more Haitians have been deported in the first months of the Biden administration than the previous administration carried out in a whole year.
“We must be decisive and unapologetic in our efforts to dismantle racist and discriminatory policies. Title 42 is no exception,” Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna Pressley said. In a clear indication of that, the previous president’s unlawfully appointed acting Department of Homeland Security secretary, Chad Wolf, cheered the Biden administration’s decision to keep Title 42 in place.
The New York Times reports that the Biden administration had considered phasing out the policy by the end of summer. Roughly one month later, that plan was scrapped, supposedly out of concerns over the delta variant. “Delaying those plans, possibly through the end of the year, is sure to be welcomed by Republicans who have proposed legislation to maintain the rule for as long as necessary,” the report continued.
Groups including the ACLU, Texas Civil Rights Project, Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES), Center for Gender & Refugee Studies, Oxfam, ACLU of Texas, and ACLU of the District of Columbia say the policy violates “longstanding immigration statutes requiring that asylum seekers receive a full and fair proceeding to determine their right to protection in the United States.” While unaccompanied children and some families are being allowed to enter the U.S., many are still being quickly expelled back to danger. Now groups are returning to court to attempt to restore the asylum system.
“We took the government to court over Title 42 because the lives of children, entire families, and extremely vulnerable people are on the line,” said Texas Civil Rights Project senior attorney Karla Marisol Vargas. “It’s beyond cruel to use an obscure public health rule to turn away families seeking safety without due process and functionally shut down our asylum system—it’s illegal. People have a legal right to seek safety in America and our government has the resources to safely process them into the country to have their cases heard. Initial promises on the part of the Biden administration to phase out Title 42 for only family units will not do enough. It is time to double down on the push to end Title 42 and force the government to follow the law.”
“It’s racist, it’s illegal, and it has no valid basis in public health, as medical experts have attested for over a year now,” said Center for Gender & Refugee Studies managing attorney Neela Chakravartula. “That the administration has chosen to continue this Trump-era policy, which violates our domestic and international legal obligations to refugees, is a moral failure and an abdication of leadership.”