Lawmakers in both the U.S. House and Senate are urging the Biden administration to reconsider its decision to greatly expand the use of Stephen Miller’s debunked Title 42 order. While officials this month announced a program allowing U.S.-based individuals to sponsor Venezuelan nationals, they also said that other Venezuelans seeking refuge at the southern border would be quickly expelled to Mexico under the faulty public health order.
“This decision places thousands of displaced asylum seekers at risk, does not align with our nation’s values, and violates our legal obligations under domestic and international law,” lawmakers including Sen. Robert Menendez and Rep. Adriano Espaillat write. They urged the Biden administration to “reassess this decision and ensure that all individuals have access to our nation’s asylum system.”
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“The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees categorized the situation in Venezuela as the ‘second-largest external displacement crisis in the world,’” lawmakers wrote in the letter to the president and members of his cabinet. “Families are fleeing violence, insecurity, persecution, malnutrition, as well as the lack of medicine and essential services in Venezuela,” and have been enduring brutal conditions as they travel thousands of miles to reach safety, often on foot.
The Biden administration has acknowledged these conditions, by redesignating Venezuela for Temporary Protected Status this past summer. By definition, this means conditions in Venezuela are too unsafe to allow the return of Venezuelan nationals currently in the U.S. But under the Biden administration’s announcement this month, Venezuelan asylum-seekers who arrive outside the new sponsorship program will be subject to the Title 42 policy and returned to Mexico.
“It is particularly troubling for the Department of Homeland Security to force Venezuelan asylum seekers to return to Mexico using Title 42 given how the administration has already determined that forcing migrants to return to Mexico poses a danger to their lives,” lawmakers said. They noted that the federal government cited these risks in the memo attempting to terminate the Remain in Mexico policy last year.
“These facts make clear that Title 42 violates our nation’s domestic and international legal obligations by placing asylum seekers at risk of extreme violence,” lawmakers said. While Republicans successfully sued to block the Biden administration’s plan to end the use of Miller’s order by the end of May, the expansion of the policy to include Venezuelan nations is the Biden administration’s own doing.
Lawmakers noted CDC officials who refused to endorse the Title 42 order early in the pandemic, citing the lack of scientific evidence to justify its use. One official, Dr. Marty Cetron, “worried that Title 42 would lead to an ‘inappropriate epidemic of stigma and misrepresentation’ against migrants,” the letter said. “This week, the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis issued a report referencing Dr. Cetron’s concerns that Title 42 is morally wrong and is used ‘to keep Hispanics out of the country.’”
“It is critical that the administration reassess the decision to implement Title 42 against Venezuelan asylum seekers at the U.S.-Mexico border,” lawmakers including Rep. Barbara Lee, Jamie Raskin, and Jan Schakowsky continued (click here to see the full list). “We have a moral and legal responsibility to ensure that our immigration policies respect human rights and recognize the dignity of all human beings seeking refuge.”
“We have to keep going, as there is no other option,” said Remira Alarsa, a former teacher who traveled thousands of miles from Venezuela but arrived too late to seek safety, The Guardian reported. “I keep trying to tell myself that I didn’t leave two weeks too late, that this was the perfect timing. But at every stop, money is taken from you, little by little. And now we’re going to have to pay a lot more.”
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