Advocates turn up heat for Biden to end Title 42 expulsions

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Health experts, immigrant rights defenders say planned piecemeal rollback will continue to expose asylum-seekers to violence, exclude LGBT applicants

Central American migrants expelled from the United States under Title 42, are seen at the National Migration Institute station in Ciudad Juarez, State of Chihuahua, Mexico on April 5, 2021. (Photo by HERIKA MARTINEZ/AFP via Getty Images)

EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Migrant advocates and one health expert are calling on the Biden administration to immediately end Title 42 expulsions they say are not based on science and expose asylum-seekers to violence in Mexico.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued the public health order in March 2020 to prevent the cross-border spread of COVID-19. But many advocates then and now questioned the need for it and said it was an excuse to deny migrants an opportunity to state their case for staying in the country.

“We knew from the very beginning that the use of Title 42 was only about the Trump administration’s war on immigration, not about health or safety,” said U.S. Rep. Judy Chu, D-California. “Unsubstantiated claims and unscientific justifications were used as grounds for cruelty against people born outside this country.”

The result of expelling hundreds of thousands of migrants within hours of detention at the Southwest border was many of them were beaten, robbed, kidnapped and raped in Mexico.

A Mexican official (left) watches as several Central American families walk across the border into Juarez after being placed in the Title 42 protocol by CBP. The families had been flown in to El Paso from Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, and expected to be paroled in the U.S., but were sent back to Mexico. (Border Report photo)

The policy has continued under the Biden administration. Both Chu and Kennji Kizuka, associate director of Human Rights First, cited more than 3,000 documented cases of assaults against expelled migrants in Tijuana, Juarez and other Mexican cities.

“We just spoke to a Honduran man who was expelled to Juarez … he was kidnapped, held by two weeks by men who called family members in the U.S. and threatened to kill him and dump his body in a trash can” if they didn’t pay a ransom, Kizuka said.

Title 42 has also led to the separation of families who, aware they will be expelled if they cross the border together, opt for sending their children alone first, hoping to get reunited with them at a later time, the advocates said.

Speaking at a teleconference part of the #WelcomeWithDignityCampaign, advocates said they believe Biden in the next few days will announce a partial rollback of Title 42, which will only exempt families from immediate removal at the border. That is not enough because it cuts off adults not traveling with their children from stating a case for asylum and it will exclude almost all LGBT migrants.

“We recognize the new administration’s efforts to change course, but this is just a start,” Chu said. “A piecemeal approach will continue to inflict harm.”

Aaron Morris, executive director of Immigration Equality, said anything less than a complete rollback of Title 42 equates to a “pink ban.” That’s because most LGBT migrants are single and same-sex couples who have children risk having only the biological father or mother being admitted with the child, he said.

“We remain highly concerned by reports of the Biden administration continuing this unlawful policy to block and expel single adults. This is illegal,” Kizuka said. “Single adults face no less violence being blocked (from asylum) and expelled to Mexico than if being expelled to their country. […] There’s no reason to suspect there will be less violence against single adults.”

He said immigrant rights groups on Thursday would be releasing a new report on how asylum-seekers continue being the target of violence in Mexico after being expelled from the United States under Title 42.

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