There Must be an “After Title 42” for Border PolicyChildren of Immigrants
From the beginning, First Focus on Children has decried the cruelty of the Title 42 policy, a Trump Administration policy that misused a public health law and the COVID-19 pandemic as pretexts to summarily turn back asylum seekers at our border. This policy applied to all asylum seekers—children, families, and other marginalized communities who would face outsized harm either in Mexico or in their home country. The numbers have borne this out—as of April 2022, the organization Human Rights First had found more than 10,000 publicly reported instances of violence, kidnapping, sexual assault, and other attacks against migrants expelled under Title 42, including against children. Black, brown, and LGBTQ migrants have experienced a disproportionate amount of the harm. All of this despite U.S. law that has provided a right to seek safety from persecution and violence for decades.
For two years we asked, when will this cruel policy end? Last month, the Biden Administration provided an answer: May 23rd.
After years of advocacy by public health experts, immigrant rights advocates, children’s advocates, and migrants themselves, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an order ending the Title 42 policy. The order states what has always been true: There is no public health reason to expel immigrants at the border, and especially now with the wide availability of COVID-19 vaccines and the long list of other preventative measures, like masks, testing, and treatment, to address the COVID-19 pandemic.
This announcement was welcome news. But soon after it came out, members of Congress began to call for this policy to remain in place—not for any public health reason, but as a deterrent policy against migration. Bills introduced in the House and Senate would keep the Title 42 expulsion policy in place by tying the end of the policy to the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency. These bills forget that asylum seekers arriving at our border are not new—it has been a legal right for decades and was the regular order of operations for years before the pandemic. These bills forget that deterrence-based policy at our borders has never stopped migration and has only increased harm to children and families across multiple administrations. These bills would jeopardize much needed COVID-19 funding—funding that children desperately need as the least vaccinated age group and as cases in children continue to rise—for a policy that is not based in public health, that has failed as a border management measure, and that subjects children to violence and family separation.
Children and families who come to our country have fled violence, persecution, trafficking, and any number of dangerous situations. The cost of denying them the opportunity to seek safety is too great. Our country has a long and proud tradition of welcoming children, families, and individuals who need protection from persecution, violence, and torture. We must stand firm in our constitutional principles of due process, which means that every person has a fair opportunity to make their case for protection. We cannot and should not abandon those principles. We have the capacity, both in resources and compassion, to welcome children and families seeking safety with a fair, orderly, and humane immigration system starting at the border.
If our policymakers ask, “What policy is best for children?” there are clear, common-sense border solutions that advance the health, safety, family unity, and development of children and that, in fact, create a fair, orderly, and humane immigration system. Border policies must:
- Welcome and process children, families, and individuals seeking asylum in a manner that keeps families together, provides humanitarian assistance, and connects them with government-supported organizations providing shelter, reception, and support for people’s immigration cases and final destinations
- Allow children and their families to pursue their immigration cases in the community with access to community-based services that help them understand the immigration system and recover from their trauma
- Grant children and families a fair opportunity to make their claim for protection within a meaningful timeframe, and with legal and social services to develop their immigration case
The American people have repeatedly said they want the United States to be a nation that makes the best interests of children our primary consideration and upholds our values of welcome and due process. To fulfill that promise, policymakers must support and work toward an “after Title 42” for border policy, and they must do it now.
Click here to reach out to your members of Congress and urge them to reject all efforts to keep Title 42 in place.