As we've been discussing now for a few weeks, the Biden Administration decided to bring enforcement of Title 42 policies, which enable the US government to expel asylum-seekers without allowing them to apply for asylum, to a close on May 23. The announcement has led to a political backlash from Republicans and even many Democrats. As a result, several GOP attorneys-general sued the Biden administration for ending Title 42 too quickly. The judge in the case issued a preliminary injunction, basically saying that Biden could not phase out the policy before May 23, and it is an open ended question if the court will let the administration end it very quickly after that. The Biden Administration and the states make their case before the judge on May 12.
In Congress, Democrats joined Republicans in crafting a bill that would place guideposts on the road to ending Title 42, possibly stretching out its demise for months, at least past the election.
Although Biden is making his case publicly about ending Title 42, behind the scenes his administration is expanding its use.
Expanding expulsions to Haiti
Since announcing the end of Title 42, the Biden Administration has increased expulsions of Haitians significantly. Since the April 1st announcement there have been 20 flights to Haiti - with flights nearly every day over the last three weeks. Just this week (May 2-5), of the approximately 400 Haitians expelled, at least 44 were infants under 2 years of age.
The Biden administration had already expelled more Haitians than any president in recent memory; indeed, more than the last three combined. This is the result of using Title 42 in the context of a dramatic increase of people from Haiti attempting entry into the United States. This is due to economic recessions in Chile and Brazil where many Haitians resettled since the 2010 earthquake, the political collapse in Haiti itself, and perhaps COVID. The combination of events is unique; but Biden still needs to be called on this abuse of the fundamental human right to apply for asylum. And he has been.
We and along with multiple other other human rights, faith-based, civil rights, and social justice organizations have denounced expulsions to Haiti in the current context of civil conflict and economic collapse. Democratic leaders in Congress, including Schumer, have called for the expulsions to end. Even some Republicans, like Florida Senator Marco Rubio, have called for the expulsions to end. The editorial boards of the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Boston Globe, and the Miami Herald, to name only the better known papers, have called on the administration to stop. Instead, the expulsions have intensified.
In addition to the flights, at the moment the Coast Guard is interdicting and returning hundreds of Haitians every week. The numbers are increasing because the situation on the ground in Haiti continues to deteriorate.
Another Use of title 42: Expelling Cubans and Nicaragua to Mexico
When the Trump administration forced the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to use its Title 42 authority to derail asylum and permit the immediate expulsion of people back into Mexico, the government of Mexico had a moment of “wait, you want to do what”? Obviously, the Trump plan required that Mexico agree to accept the people that the administration wanted to expel. President Obrador had already been pressured by the Trump administration to further militarize Mexico's southern border, and accept people expelled under the Migrant Protection Protocol (“Remain in Mexico”). As a result, Obrador placed limits on who would be accepted: Mexican nationals, and people from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala. These four countries accounted for well over 80% of all expulsions, but not all.
Since Title 42 went into effect, Cubans and Nicaraguans, who could not simply be turned back to Mexico, have faced either extended detention or expulsion under the separate Migrant Protection Protocol. One reason is that Cuba has refused expulsion flights, so there is nowhere else to place them. Nicaragua has been accepting flights, though up until last summer the number of people from Nicaragua crossing into the United States was relatively small.
Since the Biden administration reinstated Remain in Mexico (under court order), Nicaraguans have accounted for 75% of the people enrolled into the program. Cubans and Venezuelans have made up the majority of the remainder.
The Biden administration then negotiated a separate agreement with Mexico in April to accept Nicaraguans and Cubans expelled under Title 42 from three US ports of entry: San Diego, El Paso, and Rio Grande Valley. Which is to say, the Biden administration is expanding expulsions of Title 42 specifically for Cubans and Nicaraguans, while publicly claiming to try and end the program.
The further absurdity is that the Biden administration is also currently sanctioning Nicaragua and Cuba, and the primary “official” reason for these sanctions is political persecution. And yet, the administration negotiated a side agreement with Mexico to expel people who, if given the chance, might well seek protection due to political persecution.
So we have to speak out! Let them know that you support receiving migrants who want to apply for asylum in a way that promotes their dignity and our humanity. We must end Title 42, normalize asylum, and halt all expulsions to Haiti, whether by land or sea.