Today, March 21, marks the second anniversary of the implementation of the debunked public health order that’s used the pandemic as an excuse to quickly deport asylum-seekers, in violation of their rights. Legal organizations, medical experts, and advocates used the anniversary to reiterate their call for an end to the order.
“The Title 42 expulsion order was never based on sound science, even during the early months of the pandemic,” said Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) medical director Michele Heisler. “However, with vaccines and other effective public health strategies now widely available, the faulty rationale for keeping the Title 42 order in place is more than intellectually bankrupt, it is morally reprehensible.”
“Today’s shameful anniversary comes shortly after the Centers for Disease Control terminated Title 42 for unaccompanied minors,” the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC) said in a statement received by Daily Kos. “While grateful that asylum-seeking children have been shielded from being expelled under Title 42, CLINIC stands with medical professionals and the public health community to demand a complete rescission of the policy ‘that has no basis in public health best practice.’”
Implemented under political pressure from Mike Pence and white supremacist Stephen Miller, the policy purports to support public health safety when, in fact, it actively causes harm.
“Human Rights First has tracked more than 8,705 reports of kidnappings and other violent attacks against migrants and asylum seekers blocked in and/or expelled to Mexico by the United States government since the Biden administration took office,” PHR said. The humanitarian organization said its clinicians “have witnessed severe medical crises experienced by some asylum seekers who present at the U.S.-Mexico border,” including metastatic breast cancer, pregnancy at high risk for eclampsia with signs of premature labor, and seizure disorders.
Legal advocates shared images of medically vulnerable asylum-seekers at a port of entry today, including one family that’s been waiting for months for a response to a humanitarian parole request.
Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials are “telling us they are unable to accept these families b/c of Title 42. They are telling us to leave the POE and that we need to patient,” Immigrant Defenders Law Center co-founder Lindsay Toczylowski tweeted. “We are asking them to make an exception for our Honduran & Guatemalan clients as they have done in recent days for Eastern Europeans.”
This is true. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) last week issued a memo reminding U.S. border officers they have authority to make “case-by-case” decisions to exempt “Ukrainian nationals at land border ports of entry from Title 42.” But advocates noted that while it’s a good thing to see DHS acknowledge that asylum-seekers don’t have to be turned away, many Central American and Haitian asylum-seekers are not seeing these same exemptions.
But rather than acknowledging this, Toczylowski said that her clients, including children, continued to be turned away.
“The CBP agent is telling us to leave,” she continued. “He keeps repeating that ppl need to be patient. I ask him why exceptions have been made in recent days for non-Central American families & why they can’t make an exception for these families who are in grave danger in Mexico. #EndTitle42”
“We’re explaining to the clients what CBP is saying,” Toczylowski continued. “The mom of toddler has tears in her eyes. She said earlier that her son had a seizure that lasted more than 8 minutes recently. She is seeking protection due to severe gender based violence, & CBP just slammed door in her face.”
“Time and time again since March 2020, leading medical experts have shown that there is no public health justification for Title 42,” Heisler continued. “We know what works to protect people from COVID-19, including masks, testing, and vaccines—certainly not discriminatory expulsions of asylum seekers. Instead of protecting public health, the Title 42 order violates the right to seek asylum and fuels an unnecessary humanitarian crisis mere yards from the U.S. border. Two years into this cruel policy, it’s past time to end Title 42 expulsions.”
The Biden administration has also ended Title 42 as it pertains to unaccompanied children, advocates further noted. “Now that the CDC announced it will no longer be blocking unaccompanied children under the order, the lack of justification is even more glaring,” remarked CLINIC executive director Anna Gallager. “If migrant children are not a threat to public health, then neither are migrant families or adults.”
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