EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Human rights advocates are calling for the Biden administration to stop using a controversial public health rule to deny migrants the right to asylum and instead let it expire on Wednesday.
That’s when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Title 42 authority that allows border agencies to immediately expel newly arrived unauthorized migrants comes up for review. The last time this happened – at the end of January – the CDC extended for another 60 days the policy meant to prevent the cross-border spread of COVID-19.
But as the United States and much of the world roll back coronavirus restrictions and the administration prepares to receive tens of thousands of Ukrainian refugees, immigration advocates say it’s time to end a “travesty.”
“The policy violates refugee law, undermines public health, bolsters racist tropes and sets a disgraceful, discriminatory example for the rest of the world,” said Eleanor Acer, senior director of refugee protection for Human Rights First. “Every day this policy remains in place, the Biden administration is turning away people to suffer horrific and systematic human rights violations.”
She and others cited a recent decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia and an article in The New England Journal of Medicine saying there’s no evidence the policy is stemming the spread of COVID-19.
The CDC on March 12 stopped applying Title 42 to unaccompanied minors who were not being expelled since last year, anyway. The director of the CDC last week told reporters that the data on whether to continue Title 42 remained under evaluation.
The groups’ opposition to Title 42 comes just as a group of lawmakers from border states is pleading with the administration to leave the rule in place.
Advocates said the Trump administration concocted the policy to stop migrants from claiming asylum and that the Biden administration has tarnished its reputation by keeping it in place.
“Continuation of Title 42 policy just can’t be credibly defended,” Acer said. “The discriminatory double-standard now in full display at our borders and makes blatantly clear that attempts to defend it by citing public health are disingenuous.”
She referred to the Biden administration offer to allow 100,000 Ukrainian refugees into the country this year, while preventing Latin American, Haitian and African migrants for applying for asylum at ports of entry.
Aaron Morris, executive director of Immigration Equality, said many LGBT asylum-seekers are also being kept out by Title 42.
“LGBTQ refugees are the most vulnerable and most have strong merits for asylum,” he said on a press call with reporters on Tuesday. “It is illegal, immoral and vulgar […] It is preventing people from having their day in court and leaving the LGBTQ in unsafe border areas, putting them in mortal danger. They are extorted, they are raped and beaten over and over again.”
The groups are calling for Biden to instruct border agents this week to process all asylum-seekers in a humane and expeditious way, avoiding detention as much as possible. They talked about following the lead of countries like Poland, whose priority has been to admit and assist Ukrainian refugees – not rush them to detention centers.