One-hundred organizations have plead with the Biden administration to stop its misuse of the debunked Title 42 policy, which they said in their Feb. 2 letter has deported asylum-seekers back to danger, “in violation of U.S. refugee and anti-trafficking laws and treaty obligations.” The public health order, implemented under political pressure by the previous White House nearly two years ago, has used the pandemic as an excuse to turn away vulnerable people.
But just hours after the letter, the Biden administration announced it had decided following an internal review to continue enforcing the debunked policy, citing the omicron variant. President Biden has now kept Stephen Miller’s debunked policy running longer than Stephen Miller was able to. “At this point, the Biden administration has enforced Title 42 for over a year, longer than the Trump administration,” CBS News reported.
Reactions to Title 42’s continuation sparked swift blowback from advocates and lawmakers, many of whom have spent the past year calling on the Biden administration to stop enforcing the Miller policy.
“It is unconscionable that the Biden admin is perpetuating illegal expulsions of asylum seekers at the border when even its own experts have said there is no public health justification to do so,” Women’s Refugee Commission tweeted. “Let's be clear: Immigration is not a source of pandemic spread, & Title 42’s only purpose is to stop people from seeking asylum in the U.S. & inflict suffering,” slammed legal services provider RAICES. “By continuing to implement it, the Biden admin is plainly using #Covid as a cover for xenophobia.”
Thousands of Haitian asylum-seekers have been deported under the policy in recent months despite a warning from the Department of Homeland Security civil rights office that the expulsions “would risk ‘refoulement,’ a term for sending an asylum-seeker back to a country where they will likely face persecution, in violation of human rights and international refugee law,” BuzzFeed News reported in December. Yet they’ve been deported anyway.
“The administration’s decision to continue the cruel & xenophobic Title 42 policy will only exacerbate the hurt our immigrant neighbors are experiencing—especially Haitian asylum seekers & other Black migrants,” tweeted Rep. Ayanna Pressley. “It’s long past time to end #Title42.”
In recent days, the Biden administration has also deported Venezuelan asylum-seekers to Colombia without giving them a chance to ask for relief, a move condemned by Sen. Robert Menendez.
“The recent reports of the Biden administration removing Venezuelans through third countries is extremely disturbing,” he said in a statement. “By continuing to use a page from Trump’s immigration enforcement playbook, this administration is turning its back on the immigrants who need our protection the most. Under Maduro’s cruel regime, Venezuelans who are sent back face a grim future and, in many cases, harsh consequences for seeking political asylum in the United States.”
The Biden administration’s continuation of the previous administration’s anti-asylum stance is a betrayal to both the vulnerable families and the voters who put it into power in the hope of a better course on immigration. If it’s the Biden administration’s hope that it can somehow “look tough” to Republicans, it’s a failed—and simply inhumane—plan. Both Remain in Mexico and Title 42 are in place, and Republicans have declared “open borders” anyway. They declared it hours after Biden took office.
Meanwhile, the cost of this political gamesmanship is the suffering of families and abdication of our place in the world as a refuge for the asylum-seeker.
“We’ve seen this movie before,” said immigration reform advocacy group America’s Voice. “And we’ve learned the hard way that the way Democrats win on immigration is to lean in, take on Republican attacks and show with confidence that Democrats have better, more popular and achievable solutions on immigration than the other guys. But Democrats need to tell voters what they are for and back up their words with actions and a ‘Republican-light’ or ‘humane’ version of Trump’s cruel enforcement is neither morally nor politically defensible.”
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