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Women’s Refugee Commission Welcomes the US Easing Border Restrictions for Vaccinated Travelers, but Urges the Restoration of Access to Protection for Migrants

Washington, D.C. — The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced on October 12 that it will ease pandemic-era travel restrictions along the United States land borders for travelers who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. According to DHS, beginning in early November, vaccinated travelers will be able to enter the U.S. for non-essential activities, including family visitation and tourism. DHS clarified that lifting these travel restrictions does not affect its continued use of Title 42, a controversial public health law that public health experts and advocates argue both the Trump and Biden administrations have misused to rapidly expel migrants and asylum seekers arriving at the US-Mexico border.

In response, Ursela Ojeda, senior policy advisor of the Migrant Rights and Justice Program, issued the following statement:

“For millions of families who have not been able to visit one another throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, lifting land border travel restrictions for vaccinated individuals is welcome and overdue news.

However, the Biden administration is unjustifiably continuing to block access to protection for people seeking asylum both at and between ports of entry.

“It is indefensible to claim that there is any public health justification for ports of entry to remain inaccessible for people seeking protection at our border. Without the ability to request asylum at ports of entry, the Biden administration has left many individuals with no choice but to attempt to travel into the U.S. along more dangerous and remote routes.

“Seeking protection is ‘essential travel’ and a human right. Expulsions under Title 42 are dangerous, xenophobic, and unlawful, as a federal court decided last month. We urge the Biden administration to immediately restore access to asylum, including at U.S. ports of entry, and finally build the fair, orderly, and humane immigration system it promised.”