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WRC Responds to Biden Administration Decision to Terminate Title 42 in May

The Biden administration today announced that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will terminate Title 42, effective May 23, 2022. In response to the announcement, Katharina Obser, director of the Migrant Rights and Justice Program at the Women’s Refugee Commission (WRC), issued the following statement:

“Because of Title 42, thousands of people seeking protection have been forced to wait for more than two years to be allowed to exercise their legal right to seek asylum in the United States. The Women’s Refugee Commission commends the Biden administration for finally committing to lift this unlawful policy that has turned so many families and adults back to harm. There is no question that today’s decision should have come the day the Biden administration first set foot in office, and there is no way to erase the irreparable suffering that each day of its implementation has caused for so many. We worry about the harm and risk people will face if even one more expulsion occurs, as today’s announcement suggests may happen. Still, today’s announcement is a day to celebrate what countless people seeking asylum, along with public health experts, immigration and human rights advocates, Members of Congress, and so many more have fought for, and WRC commends the CDC and the administration for finally committing to again process people fleeing persecution and harm.

“Just last week, a colleague and I traveled to the U.S.-Mexico border where we spoke with migrants who have been trapped – often for several months – in unsafe conditions, desperate for the opportunity to seek safety in the United States. Some have family waiting for them in the U.S., others were traveling with small children who are spending far too long in overcrowded shelters or encampments, and Black migrants shared with us the anti-Black racism they experience by being pushed back to Mexico. Many people seeking protection had experienced violence at home or on the journey and feared for their safety if they returned to their home countries.

“WRC will be watching closely to ensure that the Biden administration follows through on its commitment to end Title 42 once and for all. The public health justification for the use of Title 42 has been long debunked by public health experts and exposed as a cover to end access to asylum entirely. These false pretexts crumbled even further in recent weeks when the Biden administration ended the policy for unaccompanied children and explicitly exempted Ukrainians from Title 42. And as countries like Poland have demonstrated by receiving millions of Ukrainian refugees in recent weeks, it is possible to welcome those fleeing harm even when numbers of arrivals are high in a very short amount of time.

“We urge the Biden administration to finally restore and rebuild an asylum system that is just, orderly, and that welcomes those seeking protection with dignity, including at U.S. ports of entry. Critically, the Biden administration must support and work closely with local organizations in cities at the border and beyond that welcome migrants every day. Local humanitarian organizations are invaluable partners to ensure that our asylum system is orderly and humane and must be consulted and guaranteed the resources needed to carry out their services. Just as critically, the Biden administration must ensure that those seeking asylum are able to do so in a manner that supports them, not punishes them, for exercising this legal right. WRC and others have long documented the harms, trauma, and barriers caused by immigration detention and calls on the Biden administration to employ community-based support services and ensure access to counsel for anyone who may need help navigating the immigration process.

“We hope that today marks a crucial turning point, one that, although long overdue, ultimately leads to a fair and just U.S. asylum system. As always, the Women’s Refugee Commission stands ready to work with the administration to ensure just that.”