Last week was a truly horrible week for asylum-seekers. On Thursday, the Biden administration announced it had reached an agreement with the Mexican government to restart Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), more commonly known as Remain in Mexico. This follows a ruling from a right-wing judge this past summer.
Then just one day later, the Biden administration said it would continue the Centers for Disease and Control Prevention (CDC) order implemented by the previous administration that has used the novel coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to deport hundreds of thousands of asylum-seekers in violation of their rights. But unlike Remain in Mexico, there’s no court order behind the Title 42 policy.
“After a new review, the Biden administration decided to continue the Trump-era Title 42 border policy, which allows the U.S. to swiftly expel migrants, a CDC spokesperson tells CBS News,” reporter Camilo Montoya-Galvez tweeted on Friday. “CDC conducted the 60-day assessment at the end of November and the Order stands.” It’s unclear whether that assessment included omicron, which was identified as a variant of concern by the World Health Organization around that same time period.
But what has always been clear is that Title 42 was never about public health, it was about a way to quickly kick out asylum-seekers, as recently released testimony has continued to confirm. “Do you believe that that order was necessary to prevent the spread of coronavirus in the U.S. at that time, at this specific time, March 20, 2020?” former CDC Principal Deputy Director Anne Schuchat was asked. “No,” she replied.
The continuance of Title 42 on Friday was slammed by Amnesty International USA, which also noted the fact that the order was implemented under political pressure by the previous White House, and against the advice of public health experts.
“Instead, it serves as a politically-motivated tool, using racist, xenophobic tropes about immigrants to weaponize COVID-19 against migrants and asylum-seekers,” Americas Advocacy Director Amy Fischer said. The group is among the organizations noting that the combined Remain in Mexico and Title 42 policies create “a reality where migrants are virtually cut off to all avenues to asylum.”
“President Biden promised that in his first 100 days as president, he would end the Trump administration’s detrimental asylum policies and ‘ensure that the U.S. remains open and welcoming to people from every part of the world,’” Fischer continued. “Now, over 300 days since President Biden’s inauguration, asylum-seekers are endangered by the very policies he pledged to end on the campaign trail.”
On Thursday, “the administration blamed a court order for its restart of another Trump-era policy known as ‘Remain in Mexico’ that causes many of the same harms,” the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) tweeted. “With Title 42, there’s no court order to blame.” As previously noted, the Biden administration has also expanded Remain in Mexico to be even broader than it was under the previous administration. “The expansion included in the reintroduced policy makes it possible for US border officials to send Haitians to Mexico, which generally did not happen in years prior,” BuzzFeed News reported.
“The Biden administration was not ordered by the court to expand Remain in Mexico to new populations,” Women’s Refugee Commission Senior Policy Adviser for Migrant Rights and Justice Ursela Ojeda said according to Vox. The article notes how supposed improvements made to the program as part of a U.S./Mexico agreement simply aren’t enough. It’s impossible to make the inhumane, humane. “They are going well above and beyond good faith compliance that’s required of them [by the court] to make this policy more cruel and more deadly,” Ojeda continued.
Remain in Mexico’s return has also drawn criticism from the asylum officers’ union, which said that the policy’s reimplementation makes officers “complicit in violation of U.S. federal law and binding international treaty obligations of non-refoulement that they have sworn to uphold.” The union also called for Title 42’s termination.
“Why is Biden still relying on an idea from Stephen Miller?” New York Intelligencer asked. It’s a question many of us have been wondering about since the administration both extended the policy this past summer, and then defended it in court after a ruling for a short time partially blocked it. “Biden must end both Title 42 and the ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy, and restore our asylum system now,” the ACLU continued. “Lives are at stake.”