Press Release: Immigrants' Rights Advocates Call on the CDC to Restore Asylum

March 21, 2022

CONTACT: Alexandra Gulden

Washington D.C.—“We are here today, marking the second anniversary of the public health order known as Title 42,” stated Quixote Center Executive Director Kim Lamberty, DMin. “We present ourselves at the DC offices of the Center of Disease control to call on the CDC to renounce and put an end to this order, which denies families, children, and adults arriving at the southern border their right to seek asylum in the United States. Over 20,600 Haitians—including pregnant women, children and babies—have been sent back to Haiti. There is for Title 42. We call on the Biden Administration to rescind the order and restore an orderly, welcoming, and just asylum system.”

March 20th will mark two years since Title 42 was first implemented. On March 21st, asylum seekers in Nogales are bravely taking to the streets to reenact the Way of the Cross, drawing parallels between Jesus' journey to death and the violence migrants face along theirs. Today, we—along with faith leaders, immigrants' rights advocates, and human rights defenders across the country—stand in solidarity with their call for justice.

The harm that the Title 42 policy has caused is irreparable. Over one million migrants and asylum seekers have been denied the opportunity to seek asylum, a universal human right. And since President Biden took office, there have been at least of violent attacks—including rape, kidnapping, and assault—against people blocked in or expelled to Mexico under Title 42.

“The Title 42 expulsion order was never based on sound science, even during the early months of the pandemic. However, with vaccines and other effective public health strategies now widely available, the faulty rationale for keeping the Title 42 order in place is more than intellectually bankrupt, it is morally reprehensible,” said Michele Heisler, MD, MPA, medical director at PHR and professor of internal medicine and public health at the University of Michigan. “Time and time again since March 2020, leading medical experts have shown that there is no public health justification for Title 42. We know what works to protect people from COVID-19, including masks, testing, and vaccines—certainly not discriminatory expulsions of asylum seekers. Instead of protecting public health, the Title 42 order violates the right to seek asylum and fuels an unnecessary humanitarian crisis mere yards from the U.S. border. Two years into this cruel policy, it's past time to end Title 42 expulsions.”

“The outpouring of compassion and solidarity for Ukrainian refugees is a critical reminder of our global responsibility to offer a safe haven for all those seeking refuge, without discrimination,” said Kathryn Hampton, MSt, MA, deputy director of the PHR Asylum Program. “Ukrainian refugees arriving at the U.S. southern border face the same inhumane policy that other asylum seekers have been facing for almost two years — summary expulsions with no chance to seek asylum under the Title 42 order. Thousands of Ukrainians are joining the thousands of Mexican, Haitian, Central American, and African asylum seekers who have also been waiting for the chance to seek refuge, but who have been turned away because of the Title 42 expulsion order. Families with small children, elderly people, people with serious medical conditions, and people with disabilities are sleeping on the ground outside U.S. ports of entry or in crowded tent encampments. Whether applied to a Honduran, a Cameroonian, or a Ukrainian, the Title 42 order is a profound injustice.”

"Today, across the country faith-leaders, public health officials, human rights advocates, and concerned individuals are taking on the streets in solidarity with asylum seekers demanding that the administration restore access to asylum humanely and end Title 42. For two-years Title 42, an obscure provision of public health law, has been weaponized by both the Trump and Biden administrations to deny families, children, and adults arriving at the southern border their right to seek asylum in the United States for two years," said Melina Roche, Campaign Manager. "Today, I'm proud to stand with partners outside the CDC office in Washington, DC to demand the agency to listen to and finally put an end to Title 42 - a policy that does not protect public health."

“On March 12, 2022, the CDC Director terminated with respect to unaccompanied noncitizen children an Order under Title 42,” said Lorena Del Pilar Bonilla MD, Doctors For Camp Closure Co-Founder. “This essentially now means that unaccompanied noncitizen children will not be expelled from the United States under CDC's order. Doctors For Camp Closure urges the Biden administration to terminate these harmful policies like Title 42. We ask that our government ensure that people fleeing persecution and torture can request asylum at the border, including at ports of entry. There is no public health justification to continue to enforce Title 42 and we want our country to get back on track by respecting human rights access to asylum.”

“America's welcome mat is quite tattered and stained following the anti-immigration efforts of the last five years. The National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd had hoped that America would put out a fresh clean welcome mat with President Biden's arrival in the White House, but thus far we are disappointed. We call on the President, his White House and the CDC to remember their compassion and purpose, and the first thing they can do is to rescind Title 42 and cease expelling migrants immediately under this faulty judgment,” said Fran Eskin-Royer, Executive Director of the National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd.

“As people of faith, we are called to love our neighbor without distinction. Title 42 dishonors the dignity of migrants and violates the internationally recognized right to seek asylum. President Biden must act in accordance with his Catholic faith and end the racist Title 42 policy before more people are subject to violence and persecution,” said Mary J. Novak, Executive Director of NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice.

“Title 42 expulsions have got to stop,” said Susan Gunn, Director of the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns. “The harm inflicted on those who seek safety at our borders and are turned away cries out to heaven. We must end this disastrous policy and create a robust system of asylum processing for our migrant brothers and sisters who arrive at our Southern border. With enough resources, we can create a just and efficient asylum system at the border – we just need the will to do it. As Christians we are called to extend mercy and welcome, and we urge the CDC and the Administration to allow us to live out this mission.”

The Quixote Center calls on the CDC to end Title 42 and restore an orderly, welcoming, and just asylum system. We are joined by the Haitian Bridge Alliance, United We Dream, the Campaign, Physicians for Human Rights, the NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, the American Civil Liberties Union, Pax Christi USA, Franciscan Action Network, the Latin American Working Group, Detention Watch Network, Doctors for Camp Closure, Oxfam, Human Rights First, the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, CISPES: Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador, and the National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd.