Neither the petition of more than 300 organizations defending immigrants, nor the pressure of a handful of the most prominent Democratic leaders mattered.
The Administration of President Biden partially maintained the validity of one of the most controversial legacies of the Trump era: The application of Title 42, which allows the repatriation of asylum seekers at the border for health reasons related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicated that they will abolish the section of Title 42 in relation to unaccompanied migrant children, the decision of the Trump Administration did not please the Democrats.
“We are deeply disappointed in the Biden Administration’s decision to keep Title 42 in effect. While we recognize that the administration made the right decision to prevent the removal of unaccompanied children, it is wrong that they continue to separate families with children, exposing them to situations where they could suffer persecution and torture,” expressed several Democratic senators, including Senate leader Charles Schumer, Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Bob Menéndez, as well as Alex Padilla and Cory Booker, who expressed disagreement with the president’s decision.
The senators’ logic is impeccable: If COVID vaccines and tests are widely available, what is the public health benefit of kicking asylum seekers back into dangerous situations in their home countries, or worse?
The Biden Administration’s decision followed 2 conflicting rulings on the issue. On the one hand, a federal judge from the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled that the Biden Administration could not use Title 42 to expel families with children to countries where they could face persecution or torture. However, another Texas court magistrate ruled that unaccompanied migrant children could not be exempted from the policy.
The CDC made it clear that its decision responds to the concerns of the Texas judge, although basically it coincides with the position of the District of Columbia judge. Such a Solomonic decision did not seem to be enough for the lawyers who work in the border trenches defending asylum seekers.
“Title 42 has been a major obstacle in bringing justice to those with legitimate protection (asylum) claims. We have seen all kinds of injustices at the border, using Title 42 to reject, in the most random and unjustified way, many people. If we are a system of law and order and we are able to criticize other countries for their legal systems, we should start by obeying the laws we have,” says immigration attorney Rafael Borrás.
The United States is going through a difficult time and it is understandable that the Biden Administration does not want to implement policies that could precipitate an exodus of immigrants to the border, but it is urgent that it fulfill its promise to build a functional asylum system that reflects the hospitable and humanitarian tradition of this country of immigrants.