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Human rights groups appeal to international panel to end Biden’s Title 42 migrant expulsions

Protest Against Using Title 42 to Detain & Deport Immigrants
Michael Brochstein
Sipa USA via Reuters
August 19, 2021 - New York, NY, United States: A banner saying "U.S. Immigration Policy is a Crime" at a protest organized by Rise and Resist against the use of Title 42 exclusions to detain and deport immigrants.

A coalition of 14 legal clinics and immigrant and human rights groups filed an emergency request on Thursday for precautionary measures against the United States with an international human rights panel. The request is calling on the Biden administration to stop expelling migrants using a public health policy, Title 42, originally enacted by the Trump administration.

The Trump administration began using Title 42 at the start of the pandemic, arguing the quick expulsion of immigrants on flights back to their home countries would help stop the spread of COVID-19.

Although President Biden promised a more humane immigration system and has ended the Trump-era practice of deporting unaccompanied children into Mexico, his administration has continued to expel adults and families under Title 42, insisting it is a public health law — and not an immigration policy — despite increasing pressure from immigrant advocates.

Texas Public Radio is supported by contributors to the Border and Immigration News Desk, including the Catena Foundation and Texas Mutual Insurance Company.

“These expulsions are being carried out under the guise of public health,” said Kennji Kizuka, associate director of Human Rights First.

Kizuka said the emergency request to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights was submitted on behalf of 31 asylum speakers as well as on behalf of thousands of other people that have been denied the right to seek asylum at the border.

Nicole Ramos, Director of Al Otro Lado’s Border Rights Project, said despite it being a migrant’s legal right under international and U.S. domestic law to seek asylum, “not a single” applicant of hers requesting humanitarian parole in the U.S. has been approved. Despite migrants facing discrimination, abuse and debilitating living conditions — such as the lack of access to food and water — the U.S. continues to ignore or deny applicants’ rights to seek asylum.

“Title 42 is not a public health policy; it is genocide, and it is happening in our name,” Ramos said.

Migrants leave a chartered airplane in El Paso
Migrants arrive on a chartered flight from Brownsville, Texas in El Paso, Texas, U.S. March 17, 2021.

The coalition, consisting of Al Otro Lado, Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project, Haitian Bridge Alliance, Human Rights First and Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES), told the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights these migrants have been expelled to the dangerous conditions they have fled in their countries or to troubled border regions of Mexico where expelled migrants are frequently the targets of rape, kidnappings and other violence.

“What this asks of the Inter-American Commission is that it acts and urges the United States to stop these dangers, to stop forcing people to return to situations where their lives are at risk,” said Yale Law School professor James Cavallaro. “It’s a precautionary measure — it is not a final resolution — and that is why it is something that is urgent, and it is something that can be responded to quickly in a manner that might save lives and protect people from irreparable harm.”

The federal government’s use of Title 42 to expel migrant families has been ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge, but the policy remains in effect as the Biden administration defends it in court.

The administration in September sent thousands of Haitian migrants on flights back to their home country devastated by an earthquake and political unrest after an unprecedented migrant camp grew underneath the Del Rio International Bridge.

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Sofía Sánchez can be reached at tpr.sofia@gmail.com and on Twitter at @sofiahanalei