McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — Title 42 is unlawful and presents a false narrative that migrants carry disease and should not be allowed into the United States, say migrant advocates who are calling on the Biden administration to revoke the public health law.
The Trump administration reenacted Title 42 at the start of the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020. It is a law that allows the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to close U.S. borders to those trying to cross without proper documents in order to prevent the spread of the novel virus into the country.
Most migrants who are processed under Title 42 are expelled back to Mexico within two hours without any paperwork and without the chance to request asylum in the United States.
“Today, as we celebrate the Irish history of our country, we must remember the Irish were welcomed here,” said Allen Orr, president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. “Title 42 is not legal. Title 42 is from 1944 and like many other policies from that time period needs to be changed. They were used in that time period against people that were poor, and that were Black and that were brown and that’s exactly why this policy is being used right now.”
Orr and several representatives of different nonprofits and legal organizations spoke against Title 42 during a Thursday call with media hosted by the Welcome With Dignity Campaign.
The call comes the Department of Homeland Security is reportedly preparing for upwards of 200,000 migrants to attempt to claim asylum should Title 42 be lifted.
On Saturday, the CDC announced Title 42 would no longer be applied to unaccompanied migrant youth who cross the border. But the law is still in effect for all others, and if not revoked, Sunday will mark the second anniversary of its implementation.
Migrant advocates say the advent of successful vaccines and widespread immunity has reduced the threat of the virus. And they question why Title 42 is in effect for only those trying to cross into land ports of entry between Canada and the United States, but not at airports where millions of travelers enter each day from other countries?
“We have called upon the Biden admin to live up to its promises on the campaign trail to restore compassion, humanity and dignity to our nation’s immigration system specifically to people seeking safety at our doorstep,” said Bilal Askaryar of the Welcome With Dignity Campaign.
They point out that with the war in Ukraine, the United States has enacted Temporary Protected Status for Ukrainians, as well as new sanctions for refugees from Afghanistan, but not for Central and South Americans, or those from the Caribbean, such as Haiti.
According to several news reports on Thursday, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said that Ukrainians seeking refuge at the U.S. border can be excluded from Title 42. The Wall Street Journal’s Michelle Hackman tweeted that in remarks to reporters Thursday morning, Mayorkas said, “Guidance has been issued to the Border Patrol reminding them that they are allowed to exempt Ukrainian asylum-seekers from title 42.”
“Two years ago, the Trump administration weaponized Title 42 under the white national veil of public health. Since then we have repeatedly called for both the Trump administration and unfortunately the Biden administration, as well, to end the use of Title 42,” said Marielena Hincaipié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center. “Title 42 perpetuates a harmful and also unfounded narrative about immigrant communities generally and that also hurts our broader immigrant justice agenda.”
As a result, migrants who are expelled south of the border are at risk and often become victims of trans criminal organizations and drug cartels.
A report released Wednesday by Human Rights First says there have been at least 9,8860 publicly documented kidnappings, sexual assaults and other violent attacks on migrants who have been returned to Mexico under Title 42.
“The grave human rights abuses faced by people turned away under Title 42 continue to mount every day,” the report says. “Flouting refugee protection laws as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic is not and never was justified as a public health measure.”
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit earlier this month found that the use of Title 42 to expel people to places where they would face persecution or torture is illegal and violates U.S. refugee laws and international treaty obligations.
The class-action case, Huisha-Huisha v. Mayorkas, represented several families subject to Title 42 and was represented by the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project.
“Under the Huisha-Huisha litigation we had an important victory in the D.C. Circuit, underscoring that it is time to end Title 42,” ACLU staff lawyer Cody Wofsy said Thursday. “Under the Circuit’s decision, the Biden administration can no longer expel people without access to any humanitarian protections.”
When asked about Title 42, Mayorkas has repeatedly cited that the policy is in effect under the CDC’s guidance, and that DHS is not at liberty to revoke it.
Apprehension and encounter numbers by federal agents of migrants on the southern border in February show a 7% increase from January, with nearly 1 million migrants encountered since the start of the Fiscal Year 2022, which began in October. Of those, 55% were expelled under Title 44, according to data released by DHS earlier this week.
DHS officials expect 170,000 migrants could try to cross the southern border if Title 42 is lifted, and upwards of 25,000 migrants could be waiting just south of the border in shelters for the opportunity to cross, according to a report Thursday by Axios citing unidentified sources.
Border Report asked DHS officials whether this estimate is true and if they are preparing an interagency plan in case of massive migration. This story will be updated if additional information is received.