PIH Opposes U.S. Legislation that Would Continue Expulsion of Asylum Seekers
Advocates called to take action by writing legislators, asking them to oppose new bill
Posted on May 15, 2023
Take Action (Below): Contact U.S. Congress Members
UPDATE (May 15, 2023): May 11 marked the end of the United States Public Health Emergency declaration for COVID-19, which also resulted in the lifting of Title 42, an order used by former President Donald Trump’s and President Joe Biden’s administrations to prevent migrants from seeking asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Over the past three years, Partners In Health leaders consistently called for the end of this unjust order, which had no basis in public health and increased inhumane conditions for children and families forced to make desperate and dangerous attempts to seek safety in the U.S. Under the misuse of Title 42, children and families seeking asylum were expelled over 2.8 million times, resulting in family separation, a spike in children crossing the border alone—making them increasingly vulnerable to exploitation and illegal child labor, and an overall increase in dangerous conditions for people trying to flee to safety.
Unfortunately, members of Congress are considering legislation that would extend the inhumane and ineffective Title 42-style expulsions and enshrine this abuse into immigration law. On Thursday, May 11, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 2. On May 4, U.S. Senators Kyrsten Sinema and Thom Tillis introduced S. 1473. Both bills would effectively end the right to asylum and result in mass expulsions to Mexico and mandatory detention of families, unaccompanied children, and other people fleeing violence and danger. While Title 42 wrongfully used public health as a pretext to expel people seeking refuge, these new policies are now directly threatening a public health crisis based in racism and xenophobia.
“For more than three years, the U.S. government has sent the message to millions seeking peace and safety that their lives and families are not worth protecting,” says Cate Oswald, PIH’s chief policy and partnership officer. “Unfortunately, the dangerous conditions forcing people to seek refuge are only increasing.
“Rather than creating further life-threatening barriers, it is well within the U.S. government’s capacity to address the pressing needs of refugees by building compassionate pathways and real policy solutions to safe migration in this country,” Oswald adds. “PIH urges lawmakers to honor international law and human rights and build policies that create sustainable and prosperous livelihoods for migrants.”
PIH is urging members of Congress to reject S. 1473 and all attempts to deprive people the right to seek asylum.
Partners In Health is asking supporters to take action to ensure the U.S. Congress does not advance policies to reinstate Title 42.
UPDATE (February 10, 2023): On December 27, the United States Supreme Court required President Joseph Biden’s administration to maintain Title 42, an order that uses public health practices to prevent the spread of COVID-19 as a pretext to expel people seeking asylum. In a 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court put on hold a lower court ruling that would have terminated the order by December 21. Partners In Health (PIH) leaders and advocates have called on the federal government to end Title 42, and this ruling requires the unjustifiable order to continue while the Court hears the appeal.
On January 5, Biden announced an expansion of Title 42 to expel asylum seekers arriving from Haiti, Cuba, and Nicaragua to Mexico when they are apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border. The announcement also included plans to institute a narrow parole program for Cubans, Haitians, and Nicaraguans with U.S.-based sponsors to enter the U.S. The Biden administration has argued in a brief to the Supreme Court that the anticipated expiration of the COVID-19 public health emergency on May 11 would terminate Title 42 and render the Supreme Court challenge moot.
PIH calls on the administration to end Title 42 and restore access to asylum for Haitians and all seeking safety, immediately.
UPDATE (November 17, 2022): On November 15, a federal judge ruled against Title 42, deeming it illegal for President Joe Biden’s administration to continue using this order to unjustly expel migrants at the United States-Mexico border under the false pretense of preventing the spread of COVID-19, and requiring the government to terminate the order by December 21, 2022.
Partners In Health celebrates this decision and calls on the administration to restore access to asylum for Haitians and all seeking safety, immediately.
This week’s ruling comes after a different federal judge blocked the Biden administration from terminating Title 42 in May, leaving the inhumane and racist policy in place until now. For over two years, PIH leaders and advocates have called on the federal government to end Title 42 and to respect the human rights of migrants. The November 15 ruling demonstrates that Title 42 has no basis in public health, and we urge the administration to terminate it immediately and respect the rights of migrants.
UPDATE (May 16, 2022): On April 1, Partners In Health (PIH) celebrated the end of Title 42, unjustified for public health reasons, excited that Haitians and others seeking asylum in the United States may soon face a more humane process while trying to enter the country. However, there are now bipartisan bills in both the Senate and House that would keep Title 42 in place indefinitely, and could have lasting, catastrophic impacts on the United States’ asylum system.
On May 12, the White House hosted its second global summit on COVID-19. Despite calls for resolve and funding in our global pandemic response, U.S. lawmakers continue to hold up any further COVID-19 response money by demanding the continuation of the unjustified Title 42 order that has denied asylum to refugees at our southern border.
“It is a shame that lawmakers would rather play politics with the lives of millions seeking asylum than fund vaccines, treatments, and tests for impoverished communities in the U.S. or around the world,” said Cate Oswald, PIH's chief policy and partnership officer. “We are calling on lawmakers to pass COVID-19 funding for domestic and global responses without the Title 42 order, which has already allowed the administration to expel more than 22,000 Haitians from the United States. As an organization that stands in solidarity with the people of Haiti, we urge lawmakers to reverse course immediately.”
April 1, 2022
Haitians and others seeking asylum in the United States may soon face a more humane process while trying to enter the country. That’s because an unjust order will be terminated in May, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced on April 1.
The order, known as “Title 42”, has allowed the Trump and Biden administrations to prevent migrants from crossing the U.S.-Mexico border in order to stop the spread of COVID-19. However, those who oppose the order—including Partners In Health (PIH) leaders—argue that there is no public health evidence that the order effectively stops the spread of the virus.
The Title 42 order is now being lifted, more than two years since it went into effect.
“What a relief,” says Cate Oswald, PIH’s chief policy and partnership officer. “We’re happy that after two years this is finally being recognized by the CDC as unjustified for public health reasons. We’re happy the Biden administration and the CDC see that.”
For two years, PIH leaders have advocated to end the policy and in March, they co-authored a Perspective piece in The New England Journal of Medicine–published two days after the two-year anniversary of the order. Although the order will soon be overturned, opponents of the measure must not be silent, cautions Oswald.
“We need to continue our advocacy to ensure that immigration policy and reform continues to move forward. And we need to continue to hold the Biden Administration accountable,” she says.
The end of the order will hopefully mean a more just process for Haitians and other asylum seekers. In turn, this may also result in fewer people being immediately expelled while giving them more access to representation and an opportunity to be heard. While the order was in place, Haitians in particular have been disproportionately affected. Since February 2021, more than 21,000 Haitians—many of whom were subjected to inhumane treatment—have been deported.
On May 23, the order will officially be terminated. Over the coming weeks, the CDC will work with the Department of Homeland Security to implement COVID-19 vaccination programs for migrants, among other protocols, according to the April 1 announcement.
“This is a victory in the sense that so many people have been working deeply on a daily basis with Congress to encourage CDC to stop enforcing Title 42 as a public health order justifying turning away asylum seekers” says Oswald.