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The Advocates Joins #WelcomeWithDignity Campaign in Calling for End to Title 42

Date: August 3, 2021
Country: United States of America
Type: Press Release
Issues: Asylum , Migrant Rights

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 3, 2021

CONTACT: Bilal Askaryar | press@welcomewithdignity.org |

Extending Title 42 Will Endanger Refugees, Not Stop COVID-19 

Washington - Today, the #WelcomeWithDignity campaign responded with deep disappointment to the extension of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) order blocking the entry of people seeking asylum at our borders. Public health experts and asylum advocates from the campaign have made the case that the United States can safely welcome people seeking asylum. Title 42 has a deeply disproportionate impact on Black and African refugees, as well as members of the LGBTQI community. The campaign called on President Biden and the CDC to immediately rescind Title 42. 

"Title 42 expulsions are not defensible from a public health perspective. There continues to be no sound epidemiological justification for the Biden administration to single out asylum seekers for expulsion while other groups of people can enter the United States while abiding by COVID-19 safety protocols," said Michele Heisler, MD, MPA, medical director at Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) and a professor of internal medicine and of public health at the University of Michigan. "This week we at PHR published an investigation finding that the border expulsion policy is resulting in family separations and severe mental health impacts for asylum seekers. We know what works to curb COVID-19: vaccines, masking, and social distancing. A xenophobic and selective ban on individuals and families fleeing harm only undermines the CDC's credibility at this pivotal juncture in the pandemic. Placing people in congregate detention facilities is also not the answer as that could indeed increase the risk of COVID-19 spread and human rights abuses. Instead, arriving adults and families can be safely released to continue their asylum cases and shelter in place with their family members in the U.S. - a proven and effective approach. The Biden administration is using spurious public health arguments to justify a shambolic policy that is more about playing politics than saving lives."

"Border communities are ready with space, volunteers, vaccines and strong Covid-19 protocols. And above all, with a spirit of generosity and hospitality. We must honor the lawful rights of those seeking asylum and protection by ending Title 42 and restoring asylum at the border," said Dylan Corbett, Executive Director of the Hope Border Institute

"Each day that Title 42 remains in place is a day that children and families are put in danger. Title 42 is, and always has been, an obscure public health law weaponized by the Trump administration to advance their cruel, xenophobic and inhumane immigration policies. And now, it has become the official policy of the Biden administration," said Paola Luisi, Director of Families Belong Together. "We urge the Biden Administration and the CDC Director to end Title 42 in its entirety. There are ways to protect public safety without turning away vulnerable families fleeing unspeakable horror. We have the resources and know-how to safely let people claim asylum. Rather than fall victim to anti-immigrant rhetoric, we have an opportunity now to live up to our values and show compassion."

"The Biden administration's decision to double down on the use of Title 42 endangers the lives of people seeking protection and subverts refugee law here at home and around the world," said Human Rights First's Senior Director for Refugee Protection Eleanor Acer. "Instead of safeguarding public health, the administration's decision harms the health of asylum seekers and migrants who will continue to suffer kidnappings and attacks after expulsion and bolsters xenophobic tropes that falsely paint immigrants as sources of disease. The Biden administration should end this cruel, xenophobic, and illegal Trump administration policy, not adopt and prolong it."

"When I arrived at the border several years ago, I was unfairly rejected and it was devastating. I came back and won my case, but I suffered a lot because I couldn't apply for asylum the first time," said Jacqueline Flores, a member of the Asylum Seeker Support Project (ASAP). "Asylum seekers are being turned away at the border, including members of my own family, and they were exposed to so much danger as a result. History does not have to repeat itself: President Biden and the United States government have the power to change the lives of thousands of asylum seekers by allowing them to apply for asylum right now. "

"The Biden Administration's continued weaponization of Title 42 as a tool for endangering the lives of immigrant families is a disingenuous and cruel policy that continues the legacy of xenophobia left by Trump," said Jonathan Goldman, Executive Director of the Student Clinic for Immigrant Justice. "Simply put, immigrants are not the cause of COVID-19 spreading in the U.S., but refusing people refuge in the U.S. is the cause of people dying when they're forced back into dangerous situations. We must put an immediate stop to this dangerous way of thinking and eliminate the use of Title 42."

"The continued use of Title 42 to expel people fleeing harm violates US refugee laws and international treaty obligations, said Olga Byrne, International Rescue Committee's Director of Immigration. "It is also entirely unnecessary. Civil society has shown time and again that communities are ready and able to welcome asylum seekers in a dignified manner and with appropriate public health protocols. We continue to stand ready to collaborate with the U.S. government to welcome refugees in line with U.S. and international law. There is no rationale for sending asylum seekers back to danger. The International Rescue Committee renews its call for the United States to end the use of the Title 42 public health rule that needlessly and unlawfully stops asylum seekers from finding safety from harm within U.S. borders."

"Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, public health experts have agreed that it is possible to safely process migrants and people seeking protection at our borders amidst the pandemic by observing basic public health safeguards," said Ursela Ojeda, policy advisor of the Migrant Rights & Justice program at the Women's Refugee Commission. "Just like Americans, migrants can and do wear masks, social distance, get tested, and get vaccinated. Summarily blocking people from their legal right to seek asylum is unlawful and wrong. WRC condemns the continued use of Title 42 to expel people back to harm when they are fleeing for their lives. This policy is xenophobic and inhumane and has become a stain on this administration's commitment to rebuild our asylum system."

"U.S. and international law guarantee the right of those fleeing persecution to seek asylum. Title 42 violates these obligations, and puts an end to asylum as we know it. It has endangered the lives of thousands of people seeking safety. Title 42 is cruel, it's illegal, and it does nothing to keep our communities safe," said Karen Musalo, Director of the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies (CGRS). "This racist policy was devised by Stephen Miller during the Trump administration over objections from within the CDC itself. For over a year medical experts have raised the alarm, calling Title 42 'xenophobia masquerading as a public health measure' and have set forth detailed recommendations as to how the U.S. could protect the health of people seeking asylum and the communities that welcome them. The Biden administration has instead doubled down on the policy, returning desperate families, children, and adults to danger. Yesterday CGRS and our litigation partners returned to court to put an end to this cruelty once and for all."

"Make no mistake: extending the cruel and illegal Title 42 policy will not stop the spread of COVID-19, but it will condemn countless refugees to further suffering, and possibly even death, by forcing them back to the very dangers they are fleeing," said Noah Gottschalk, Global Policy Lead for Oxfam America. "By doubling down on this policy, the Biden administration is giving credence to the hateful, xenophobic ideology that inspired it, and playing politics with the lives of refugees. That is why we are proud to join our sister organizations in suing the government over this policy and bringing Title 42 to an end for families once and for all."

"Everyone deserves a safe place to call home, and denying asylum seekers safety and protection is wrong," said Meredith Owen, Director of Policy and Advocacy for Church World Service. "If the administration were serious about restoring asylum protections, they would start by upholding our moral and legal obligations to those fleeing violence and persecution, instead of turning them back to the danger they fled. Seeking asylum in the United States is legal, and each person arriving at the U.S. border is a human being who deserves respect, dignity, and safety. As we confront the worst displacement crisis on record with more than 82 million people forced from their homes worldwide, we urgently call on the Biden administration to take action. It must end its attacks on asylum seekers, terminate Title 42 expulsions, and swiftly rebuild the U.S. asylum system so that it is equitable and welcoming for all. We remain ready to work with the administration and our member communities to serve asylum seekers and immigrants in need of humanitarian assistance." 

"It's past time for the Biden administration to rescind Title 42. Put in place by the Trump Administration, but upheld by President Biden, this illegal policy has only resulted in hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers being expelled to Mexico or to their home countries. President Biden promised that he would restore access to asylum at the border but instead what we're now seeing is an extension of this anti-asylum policy. We are deeply disappointed by the decision to keep the policy in place and urge the Biden Administration to reverse course. We must welcome those fleeing persecution with dignity," states Daniella Burgi-Palomino, LAWG Co-director.

"After thousands of Jewish refugees and others threatened during World War II were denied safe passage to other countries and forced to return to perish at the hands of the Nazis, the Refugee Convention of 1951 set basic principles recognizing the right of any individual in any part of the globe to obtain asylum if they are in danger of persecution. Title 42 makes it impossible for those fleeing danger now to cross into the US to petition for asylum. By extending Title 42 the Biden administration is violating international law and putting the lives of thousands in unnecessary danger. In addition, tens of thousands of children have become 'unaccompanied' when their families have no choice but to send them across alone, in order to save their lives," said Dina Friedman from Jewish Activists for Immigration Justice of Western Massachusetts.

"Title 42 is an expulsion policy masquerading as a public health order. We're deeply disappointed that the Biden administration has doubled down on this charade, which will needlessly hurt countless people seeking safety at our border," said Karen Tumlin, founder and director of Justice Action Center.

"The Biden administration, like Democratic and Republican administrations before it, views Black and Brown people seeking protection at our borders as an 'enforcement problem' instead of human beings who deserve to live and be safe. The extension of Title 42 is not about COVID, it's about political cowardice," said Luis Guerra, Strategic Capacity Officer with CLINIC, who leads CLINIC's work on the U.S.-Mexico Border. "You don't tell people to 'stay home' when the house is on fire; you send in the rescue squad. The United States is strong enough, rich enough, and smart enough to offer a safe, orderly, and dignified process for welcoming individuals seeking protection. It is possible to create a solution that centers public health without trampling on the right to seek asylum. But we have to be honest and bold, and reject the politicization of human life. That requires the Biden administration to stand up to those who refuse to recognize migrants' humanity and chart a new course."

"Title 42 expulsions violate our domestic laws, our international obligations, and basic, fundamental humanity," said Naomi Steinberg, HIAS Vice President, Policy and Advocacy. "The expulsions put individuals at risk of kidnapping, sexual assault, or other violence, and there isn't any evidence that they do anything to stop the spread of COVID-19. Numerous public health experts have repeatedly said that we can welcome asylum seekers without spreading COVID-19 using common-sense measures like social distancing. It is past time for the Biden administration to listen to these experts and end Title 42 expulsions immediately."

"As public health experts and healthcare providers, we condemn the renewal of the Title 42 border order. The misuse of Title 42 to expel migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border is not only based on false public health claims (because with the right protocols it is possible to safely process asylum seekers and parole them into the U.S.), it is also accelerating dangerous, unhealthy conditions for migrants on the Mexico side of the border and for those who are forced to return to the violence from which they fled. We agree that the rising rates of the Delta COVID-19 variant in the U.S. represents a key public health challenge we must all face together, but we have seen that relying on exclusionary policies and practices that impact the most vulnerable have only served to worsen infectious spread and inequities throughout the pandemic. We need a coordinated, public-health driven response to address the needs of asylum seekers at our borders, not more expulsions," said Dr. Juliana Morris, MD, Doctors for America Immigrant Health Justice Working Group.

"If we are to turn the page on the Trump era and its cruelty and chaos, the Biden administration has to reject Trump's cruel and chaotic policies," said Douglas Rivlin, Director of Communication for America's Voice. "If we want to establish a fair, legal, orderly, and safe immigration and asylum system that upholds our laws and our values, Title 42 must be eliminated."

"As Indigenous Maya people from Central America, who have been forced to leave our lands since the 1970s due to the civil wars, dictatorships, and genocide that was enacted against our people, we condemn this adminstration's decision in regards to Title 42," said Dr. Jessica Hernandez (Maya Ch'orti'/Binnizá), Climate Justice Policy Strategist at International Mayan League. "These decisions are putting many Indigenous community leaders, land protectors, and families in danger by forcefully deporting them back to the violence, harm, and oppression they are escaping from."

"Our brothers and sisters hoping to seek safety should be welcomed and supported in their legal right to seek asylum," said Joan Rosenhauer, Executive Director of JRS/USA. "I have just been to our southern border and have met people whose fate and security continue to be unknown. We urge the U.S. to put measures in place that manage risks to public health during the pandemic, but that do not deny anyone the right to seek protection."

"The continued use of Title 42 is not supported by science or a need to protect the U.S. population from COVID infected asylum-seekers. It is a cynical attempt to manage the border and keep those seeking refuge out. It is short-sighted and emboldens others to do the same.  President Biden must end Title 42 immediately," said Angelica Salas, Executive Director for the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA).

"Even though our laws guarantee that survivors of violence in other countries have the right to seek asylum here in the United States, the CDC recently took a position that it has the authority to overrule that right," said Richard Caldarone, Litigation Counsel at Tahirih Justice Center. "At the same time, the CDC also took the position that it has no authority to protect survivors or others from predatory evictions during a pandemic. Those inconsistent positions have no basis in public health considerations. There is no public health rationale for blocking survivors of violence from seeking asylum while allowing others to cross the U.S.-Mexico border each day. We must remove barriers to protection, restore asylum, and treat survivors with humanity and dignity."

"The extension of Title 42 means the continuation of heartbreak and danger for people seeking safety under this administration," said Denise Bell, Researcher for Refugee and Migrant Rights at Amnesty International USA. "The weaponization of a global pandemic for border control violates human rights obligations and is corrosive to our collective humanity. There is no basis for Title 42 except political expediency. Instead of making us all safer, the misuse of Title 42 endangers people seeking safety by expelling them back to harm, and it feeds xenophobia and hateful acts against migrants by depicting them as vectors of disease.  This is stunningly wrong, harmful, and shameful. Title 42 is unlawful, and it must end."

"The Refugee Convention was clear when agreed 70 years ago-everyone has the right to seek protection from persecution, and states have an unqualified obligation to not return people to harm. Yet, The Biden administration is violating these long-held protections by continuing the Trump Administration's illegal and harmful expulsions under the guise of public health concerns with Title 42. The U.S. is not made safer by violating our international obligations, and public health experts agree. The Biden administration must swiftly undo harmful Trump policies and make the U.S. a leader in human rights protections; not prolong xenophobic policies," said Michele Garnett McKenzie, Deputy Director of The Advocates for Human Rights.

"It is deeply upsetting that the Biden administration has chosen to continue to defend a policy under the guise of public health concerns that runs counter to our values as a welcoming society," said Nili Sarit Yossinger, Executive Director of Refugee Congress. "It also reinforces stereotypes and misinformation that connects asylum seekers with the rise in COVID cases across the U.S. TItle 42 has left and continues to leave thousands of individuals and families at risk and is a shameful affront on human dignity. We urge the administration to terminate Title 42 and help the United States remain a nation of refuge."

"The misuse of Title 42 at the border to expel asylum seekers at points of entry, is cruel and illegal," said Ronnate Asirwatham, Director, Government Relations, NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice. "When the Biden administration uses Title 42 as a justification for their ability to do good in the future, they are making the active choice that children, families, and adults subjected to Title 42 are expendable. We need to see the dignity and humanity in every person."

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Join the movement and sign our pledge to #WelcomeWithDignity here.  

The #WelcomeWithDignity Campaign is composed of more than 85 organizations committed to transforming the way the United States receives and protects people forced to flee their homes to ensure they are treated humanely and fairly. To learn more and join our campaign visit: welcomewithdignity.org