Immigrants’ Rights Advocates Argue In Court Against Title 42 Expulsions

Despite Pushback From Public Health Officials and Calls to End Title 42, the Biden Administration Continues to Implement This Harmful Trump-era Policy

January 19, 2022 11:15 am

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WASHINGTON — Groups challenging the Biden administration over Title 42 expulsions of asylum seekers argued in federal court today against the continued implementation of this harmful and unlawful policy.

The American Civil Liberties Union, Center for Gender & Refugee Studies, Oxfam America, RAICES, Texas Civil Rights Project, the ACLU of Texas, and the ACLU of the District of Columbia first sued the Trump administration over Title 42 expulsions of refugee families in 2020. After hitting an impasse in negotiations with the Biden administration, the groups went back to court in July 2021 to seek an immediate termination of this policy.

Even as public health experts, former Centers for Disease Control officials and Dr. Anthony Fauci have publicly cast doubt over the scientific basis for Title 42, the Biden administration continues to implement this harmful policy.

Title 42 allows border agents to summarily expel asylum seekers without any legal process under an unprecedented and unlawful invocation of an obscure public health act. The policy was introduced during the Trump administration, in violation of longstanding immigration statutes requiring that asylum seekers receive a full and fair proceeding to determine their right to protection in the United States.

In September 2021, a federal district court held that the Title 42 expulsions are likely unlawful, but the Biden administration appealed that ruling, seeking to continue expelling refugee families.

Most notably, Title 42 came under intense scrutiny in September as Haitian asylum seekers coming to the U.S. southern border were abused and inhumanely treated by Border Patrol agents under this policy.

The following comments are from:

ACLU attorney Lee Gelernt, who argued the case before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals today: “We are back in court because the Biden administration left us no choice. We continue to fight Title 42 because families’ lives continue to be at stake.”

Neela Chakravartula, Managing Attorney, Center for Gender & Refugee Studies: “The Biden administration’s embrace of Title 42 has exposed people seeking asylum to untold violence and suffering. There is no legal or public health basis for the Title 42 policy, as the experts have made clear time and time again. Yet one year in, the Biden administration continues to defend Title 42 in court, choosing political expediency over the lives of desperate families fleeing persecution. We will keep fighting until Title 42 is defeated once and for all.”

Karla Marisol Vargas, Senior Staff Attorney, Texas Civil Rights Project: “It is shameful that an administration that ran on a belief in science and welcoming people with dignity continues to manipulate an obscure public health rule to violate the basic human rights of asylum seekers. The rationale that Title 42 is necessary to preserve public health is a lie. Scapegoating Black, Indigenous, and other migrants of color as vectors of disease just serves as an example of the ongoing racism entrenched in our immigration system. Last year, the world was able to witness these harms play out as Black migrants were violently and forcibly removed from a camp in Del Rio with no real opportunities to seek asylum. The cameras left Del Rio, but those moments and that harm is happening to Black, Brown, and other migrants of color every single day as the administration continues to implement violent, racist, and illegal policies like Title 42.”

Tami Goodlette, Director of Litigation, RAICES: “Today, the Biden administration actively chose to defend and continue the toxic, white supremacist legacy of the Trump era by doubling down and fighting to continue Title 42 in federal court. Title 42 is a policy created by the Trump administration to inflict terror on immigrant communities under the guise of public health, plain and simple. Public health experts have made clear that immigration is not a source of pandemic spread, and by fighting to keep Title 42, the Biden administration is plainly targeting refugees and asylum seekers — particularly Black migrants — for expulsion, and denying them the right to seek refuge in our country.

“We will not stand for this illogical and racist scapegoating of immigrants and will not allow this administration to use the pandemic as a cover for xenophobia. Today’s hearing is a true moment of moral reckoning for the president on immigration. Unfortunately, President Biden has chosen to promote and support Title 42 and the death and terrifying conditions it creates. We will never stop fighting for the repeal of Title 42.”

Diana Kearney, Senior Legal Advisor, Oxfam America: “Today we heard the same unconvincing arguments from the Biden administration that we’ve been hearing for the last year about this xenophobic and baseless policy, arguments that have already been rejected in federal court. Title 42 unjustly and unnecessarily inflicts harm on families seeking asylum at our border, and we will continue to work tirelessly to ensure that this policy ends once and for all.”

Shaw Drake, Staff Attorney and Policy Counsel on Border Rights, ACLU of Texas: “One year after taking office, the Biden administration continues to defend Trump’s blanket shutdown of asylum access in the United States under the facade of the pandemic. Ensuring the summary expulsion of vulnerable families seeking safety at our border, this remains one of the most inhumane and unlawful Trump era border policies. When the Biden administration adopted this policy as its own, they broke promises to restore the country’s asylum system and further co-opted the pandemic to deny lawful access to asylum to those seeking protection in the United States. Their actions are shameful.”

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