“I'm not here because I want to be here. I'm here to save the lives of my children.” - Mexican asylum seeker, expelled under Title 42 in March 2022
i want to go home,
but home is the mouth of a shark
home is the barrel of the gun
and no one would leave home
unless home chased you to the shore
unless home told you
to quicken your legs
leave your clothes behind
crawl through the desert
wade through the oceans
your survival is more important
no one leaves home until home is a sweaty voice in your ear
run away from me now
i dont know what i've become
but i know that anywhere
is safer than here
- Excerpted from “Home” by Warsan Shire
Three weeks ago Biden announced that the administration would halt enforcement of Title 42 policies on May 23, 2022. Title 42 is a set of policies premised on the executive branch's public health authority to manage the border, and was used by the Trump administration to immediately expel people, including people seeking asylum, without formal processing. There have been 1.8 million expulsions since Title 42 authority was first utilized in March of 2020. The vast majority took place under President Biden.
Since the announcement that Title 42 enforcement would be ending, everyone from government officials to human rights organizations have been gearing up for an increase in the number of people attempting to cross the border. The Department of Homeland Security, for example, estimates that encounters with people seeking irregular entry could reach as high as 18,000 people a day once Title 42 is lifted. This number has been shouted all over Fox News by Republican officials, but to be clear, the original DHS estimates are actually a range from 6,000 to 18,000 a day, based on various scenarios. The truth, of course, is that no one knows at what pace people will seek entry.
If there is an increase in border encounters post-Title 42 one reason is that so many people have already been expelled and, unable to return home because the situations they fled still exist, are waiting for another chance to cross. Waiting in horrible conditions
Of those people expelled back into Mexico under Title 42, over 10,000 have been victims of violent crime. A new report from Human Rights First, Haitian Bridge Alliance, and Al Otro Lado lays out the grim details:
The devastating human rights travesty of the Title 42 policy continues to mount. Human Rights First has now tracked at least 10,250 reports of murder, kidnapping, rape, torture and other violent attacks against migrants and asylum seekers blocked in or expelled to Mexico due to Title 42 since the Biden administration took office. Recent attacks include: a lesbian asylum seeker from El Salvador raped after being expelled to Mexico under Title 42; a Haitian asylum seeker attacked with a bat and subjected to racist abuse after DHS used Title 42 to expel him and his family to Mexico; a transman from Honduras and his girlfriend blocked from requesting asylum due to Title 42 who were raped by men who said they were “going to teach them how to be women;” and a Nicaraguan woman kidnapped with her four-year-old child and raped, who remain stranded in danger in Mexico.
People are waiting in these conditions because they cannot seek asylum in the United States, and they can not go home. They are trapped. The implicit argument we hear in political debate within the United States is that Title 42 offers some kind of deterrent, and that lifting it will lead to a “surge” in border crossings. What is missed by this assertion is the simple fact that border encounters actually reached their highest levels in 20 years while Title 42 was in place - it has clearly not been much of a deterrent. So, people may well be waiting for Title 42 to end now, with the result that there will be a spike in border encounters when the policy is phased out. But Title 42 has nothing to do with why they are there to begin with.
The crisis is not “irregular” migration. The crisis is forced displacement. Adding the nearly 12 million people displaced (5 million refugees and 7 million internally displaced) by the Russian invasion of Ukraine to global figures at the end of 2021 - and there are now between 96 and 100 million people forcibly displaced in the world today. Consider also, the many millions more displaced by civil unrest, crime and economic collapse, and we are facing a global crisis of human suffering unlike anything we've seen since the end of World War II.
Title 42 does not impact this reality at all - other than to make life even harder for the survivors of these calamities who reach our southern border.
As of now, Title 42 may well remain in place past May 23rd. On Monday, a Federal Court issued a temporary injunction against ending Title 42 in a suit brought by several Republican attorneys general. The details of the injunction are far from clear, however, as the judge told the parties involved to work it out. The suit itself was all procedural. No one is arguing that the CDC and the Biden administration can not end TItle 42. They are arguing about the process for ending it - which includes the timeline.
Of course, Title 42 enforcement will eventually cease one way or another - and what replaces it could even be worse. The crisis of forced displacement, however, is likely to only grow. One indication is that the Biden administration requested $813 billion for war making for fiscal year 2023, which begins in October. The largest war making budget ever, and Congress hasn't even started padding it with pet projects yet.
Every dollar for more bombs means the border will be that much more crowded with people fleeing the shrapnel. The world is on fire, and we let it burn, while we argue about how many people to let out of the flames. It's madness.