Title 42 still denying asylum seekers’ rights

November 2022

By Martin Mowforth

Title 42 is a Trump era policy that seeks to debar migrants seeking asylum at the US borders on grounds of public health policy. It was a policy that Trump brought in to take advantage of the coronavirus pandemic and it effectively gave immigration officials the power to block and expel anybody seeking asylum if they came from or through a country where a communicable disease was present. At the time of the pandemic, that was pretty much most of the nations of the world. It is a policy of particular relevance to The Violence of Development website as a high proportion of migrants and asylum seekers at the US southern border were, and still are, from Central America.

On his first day after inauguration, Biden introduced six bills relating to immigration policy and in his first year he introduced a total of 86 immigration-related bills, dismantling much of the Trump anti-immigration legislation. Despite that, Title 42 expulsions have been continued under the Biden administration. In November 2021, the Biden administration opened its borders to tourists but kept Title 42 in place. Julia Neusner, an attorney with Human Rights First, said: “The fact that now vaccinated tourists and shoppers are allowed to enter but vaccinated people who are fleeing violence and are in urgent danger are not, is further evidence that this policy has never been about public health.”

In November 2022, however, a federal district court judge ruled that Title 42 violates US law. District Judge Sullivan also found the Title 42 order to be “arbitrary and capricious in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act.”

“The Title 42 policy is a human rights disaster and a public health travesty. It expels asylum seekers to danger and subjects people seeking protection in the United States to horrific harms,” said Eleanor Acer, senior director of refugee protection at Human Rights First. “The Biden administration should let this flawed policy die and restore regular asylum processing immediately at US ports of entry and along the southwest border.”

A Human Rights First report (‘The Nightmare Continues’, 2022), records that in Mexico alone, recorded incidents of “kidnapping, rapes and other violence against non-citizens subject to Title 42 have spiked from 3,250 cases in June 2021 to over 10,318 in June 2022.” The same report also documents the grave harms inflicted by the Title 42 policy and the way in which it forces asylum seekers to attempt dangerous border crossings, spurs repeat crossings and causes chaos at the border.

The Biden administration recently expanded the Title 42 policy to expel Venezuelans seeking safety in the United States, subjecting more asylum seekers and migrants to danger – triggering swift condemnation by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, UNICEF and the International Organisation for Migration. The court’s ruling should make clear that the Biden administration must end its embrace of this illegal Trump administration policy.

Human Rights First: humanrightsfirst.org