Last month Rep. Joaquin Castro (TX-20) joined Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chair Raul Ruiz and Reps. Nanette Diaz Barragán (CA-44), Adriano Espaillat (NY-13), Darren Soto (FL-09), and Teresa Leger Fernandez (NM-03) to lead a letter from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus urging the Biden administration to end the implementation of Title 42.
“For more than two years, asylum-seekers have been illegally expelled from the United States without the due process they deserve. Asylum is a human right — and the current use of Title 42 is an unjustified continuation of the Trump administration’s cruel immigration policies,” said Congressman Joaquin Castro. “Trekking hundreds or thousands of miles across dangerous terrain is not something people do when they have better options. Those who seek asylum at our nation’s borders are fleeing from oppression and violence, and they just want a place where they can be safe. The Biden administration needs to do the right thing and bring Title 42 to an end.”
“While we welcome the Biden Administration’s move to humanely treat unaccompanied minors, enough is enough,” said Chair Dr. Ruiz. “It is long overdue to completely end the Trump-initiated Title 42 policy and stop using the pandemic as an excuse to keep it going. Transmission rates are low, there are safe testing and quarantining protocols, and vaccines are readily available. End Trump’s Title 42 now.”
In March 2020, the Trump administration issued a migrant expulsion order under Title 42, a provision of U.S. public health law that allows authorities to suspend immigration if there is a serious risk that communicable diseases could spread from foreign nations to the United States. Issuing Title 42 stripped millions of their right to seek asylum – a right that is guaranteed under U.S. law.
In May 2020, reporting from The New York Times revealed that long before the COVID-19 pandemic, Trump White House officials were looking at Title 42 as a possible vehicle to restrict legal immigration to the United States.
Public health experts have sharply criticized the Title 42 order, arguing that it plays no meaningful role in preventing the spread of COVID-19. In January 2022, experts from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health wrote that “The Omicron variant highlights that community transmission within the US, and not introduction of the virus from Mexico, is driving the spread of COVID-19, and that public health authorities need to focus on mitigation measures that are known to work. Title 42 is not among these measures and, if anything, makes matters worse.”
The use of Title 42 comes up for renewed consideration every 60 days and can be modified outside of that timeframe. Earlier this month, the Biden administration announced that it would allow some Ukrainians to be exempt from Title 42, even though the policy has been used to exclude asylum-seekers from conflict-stricken nations in Latin and South America. The CHC’s letter urges the Biden administration to end Title 42 and meet with members to discuss the policy before the next policy consideration date on March 30.
The full letter is below:
Dear Secretary Blinken, Secretary Becerra, Secretary Mayorkas, and Director Walensky:
The Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) urges the administration to end the implementation of Title 42. Over the past year, the CHC has appreciated working with you to reverse the previous administration’s xenophobic immigration policies. We commend your efforts to create a more humane immigration system, including your most recent efforts to modernize our asylum process and address the massive immigration court backlog. We remain concerned, however, about the lasting impacts of Title 42 including restricting the legal right to seek asylum in the United States.
As the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) undergoes a public health reassessment of the use of Title 42, we call on the administration to take the necessary steps to prepare and fully end the Title 42 policy. The CHC stands ready to work with you to ensure the U.S. is prepared to meet the needs of refugees from all over the world seeking asylum in our country. The previous administration initiated the Title 42 policy to deny asylum seekers their legal rights to due process and expel them immediately under the guise of the pandemic. However, the CHC believes that Title 42 denies individuals the right to seek 2 asylum and disproportionately impacts refugees fleeing persecution and violence from Latin American, African, and Caribbean countries, including LGBTQI+, Indigenous communities, and individuals less likely to be traveling with children.
Over the past two years, our country has made enormous progress to protect our communities against the COVID-19 pandemic. We have made noteworthy investments in testing and quarantining capabilities. Vaccines and treatments are also readily available to help prevent severe illnesses and death. The CHC believes that given the changing public health landscape and scientific advancements in limiting the impacts of COVID-19, the Department of State (DOS), Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) need to end the use of Title 42 now.
To better understand the justifications for the continued application of Title 42 and how you reached your reassessment of this policy, we request responses to the following questions:
1) Following your recent redetermination, please provide an outline on how you determine families and individuals pose a health risk when arriving at our southern borders. Which factors do you take into consideration when assessing those seeking asylum in comparison to those who enter the country on visitor or immigrant visas?
2) What steps has HHS taken to ensure parents and children make informed decisions regarding legal proceedings and their legal options?
3) How has the Office of Refugee and Resettlement (ORR) utilized the funds appropriated by Congress to respond to child arrivals at the border? Has it streamlined its processes to expedite the transfer of children from CBP custody to ORR custody? What resources does HHS need to ensure it can properly respond to unaccompanied minors seeking asylum?
4) What factors does DHS consider when determining that an individual will not face violence or persecution in the country they are repatriated to?
5) To what extent, if any, does the CDC work in tandem with HHS and DHS when evaluating Title 42 and its implementation?
6) To what extent, if any, has DOS worked with HHS and DHS to inform the administration preparation strategy? Will DOS work with the Mexican government to establish a non-governmental organization to assist asylum seekers? If not, will DOS provide DHS with this authority?
At a time when the world faces historic refugee and migration challenges, we must reaffirm our commitment to treat with dignity and humanity the world’s most vulnerable refugees. The CHC urges you to terminate the use of Title 42. Further, the CHC respectfully requests a meeting with Secretary Becerra, Secretary Mayorkas, and Director Walensky to further discuss the policy and any preparation plan ahead of your Title 42 redetermination date. Whether they are fleeing violence from a Russian dictator or a drug cartel, asylum seekers must have a chance to rebuild their lives in safety. The CHC stands ready to work with you to ensure there are safe and secure legal pathways for immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers.