Groups File Emergency Request to Inter-American Commission on Human Rights for Asylum Seekers Expelled to Danger

WASHINGTON — The Lowenstein Project at Yale Law School submitted today an emergency request for precautionary measures against the United States on behalf of asylum seekers who face grave dangers because the Biden administration continues to illegally block and expel them. The request was submitted under Article 25 of the Rules of Procedure to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). Despite widespread public outcry over

the abhorrent treatment and expulsion of thousands of Haitians, including many asylum seekers, the U.S. government continues to expel asylum seekers to danger in Haiti, Guatemala, Mexico, and other countries without access to the U.S. asylum system.

The 289-page filing asks the IACHR to provide urgent protections for the named asylum seekers from El Salvador, Ghana, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nigeria, and Yemen and on behalf of other asylum seekers who have been or would be expelled to grievous harm. They request that the IACHR instruct the U.S. government to halt the expulsion of asylum seekers to danger under Title 42, a public health law that has been used as a pretext to expel those seeking safety in the United States and to restart access to asylum at the southern border in compliance with the United States’ international obligations.

The request was prepared by the Lowenstein Project on behalf of Al Otro Lado, the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies, Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project, Haitian Bridge Alliance, Human Rights First, Immigration Clinic at the University of Texas Law School, Oxfam America, Lawyers for Good Government’s Project Corazon, Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES), Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, Transgender Law Center, University Network for Human Rights, and the Women’s Refugee Commission.

In the emergency request, the groups wrote:

“The actions and policies of the United States have created a serious and urgent situation that risks irreparable harm to the Proposed Beneficiaries and all asylum seekers that have been or would be subjected to Title 42. The Commission should adopt precautionary measures immediately requiring the United States to make changes necessary so that families, children, and adults can seek asylum in safety within the United States to avoid such irreparable harm.”

“Title 42 is a shameful policy that is rooted in xenophobia, flies in the face of U.S. and international law, and defies domestic legal and moral obligations the United States must uphold toward asylum seekers,” said Diana Kearney, Senior Legal Advisor for Oxfam America. “Three different United Nations agencies, including the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, have condemned Title 42 as a violation of international law and public health experts have confirmed that it has no scientific basis. Alongside our allies, we are asking the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights to acknowledge what the world already knows: that Title 42 is illegal, immoral, and jeopardizes the lives of people who are fleeing the world’s worst forms of violence and persecution.”

“After appealing the Huisha decision prohibiting application of Title 42 to families to the D.C. District Court and then expelling thousands of Haitian families and children from Del Rio, Texas and sending them back to Haiti, the Biden administration now owns Title 42 and the death and terrifying conditions it creates,” said Tami Goodlette, Director of Litigation at RAICES. “Biden has forgotten to defend the law, not to mention keep his promises. Seeking asylum in the U.S. is a legal act under both U.S. law and international law. We now seek remedy from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in an effort to finally stop the horrors the administration continues to impose on desperate families and children seeking refuge in our country.”

“The Biden administration’s use of Title 42 to block asylum seekers from protection violates U.S. treaty and other human rights obligations,” said Kennji Kizuka, associate director of research for refugee protection at Human Rights First. “With this emergency request, we are asking the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights to take a stand and direct the U.S. government to fulfill its obligations under international law and stop the illegal and inhumane expulsion of people seeking refuge in the United States. Our hope is that action from the largest human rights body in the Western Hemisphere will finally move the Biden administration to do the right thing and end, once and for all, the use of Title 42.”

“The Biden administration’s embrace of Title 42 endangers the very lives of people escaping persecution. The policy is a human rights catastrophe, and plainly illegal under international law,” said Felipe Navarro Lux, Manager of Regional Initiatives at the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies (CGRS). “We are proud to join the courageous asylum seekers named in this request in urging the Inter-American Commission to hold the U.S. government accountable. We hope to see the Commission join the growing chorus of international human rights bodies, legal scholars, and advocates demanding an end to the inhumanity of Title 42.”

“Under the Biden administration, Title 42 as a policy, is the wall that Trump promised he would build but could never finance,” said Nicole Ramos, Al Otro Lado’s Border Rights Project Director. “Title 42’s repeated application to asylum seekers at the U.S.-Mexico border ensures that they remain trapped in places where they have no access to food, clean water, housing and medical care, while simultaneously exposing them to extreme levels of violence in cities identified by the State Department as among the most dangerous in the world. Title 42 is not a policy designed to protect public health. It is genocide.”

“We are asking the Commission to urge the United States to prevent harm,” said James Cavallaro, of the University Network for Human Rights and a visiting professor at Yale Law School. A former president of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Cavallaro emphasized that, “the Commission need not reach a final determination holding the United States in violation of its human rights obligations: what we seek is rapid action to protect people in a dangerous and vulnerable situation.”

On Monday, U.S. State Department senior adviser Harold Koh, resigned his position sharing a legal memo that condemned the use of U.S. public health law to deter refugees from seeking asylum in the United States, calling the policy “illegal” and “inhumane.”

“Our recent efforts to assist tens of thousands of vulnerable Afghans show the best that the United States can do to protect individuals at risk in a crisis,” wrote Koh. “That effort reflects the U.S. commitment to a robust refugee admissions program that ‘is one of the most visible manifestations of a values based foreign policy, demonstrating American humanitarian leadership.’ Yet our actions and approaches regarding Afghan refugees stand in stark contrast to the continuing use of Title 42 to rebuff the pleas of thousands of Haitians and myriad others arriving at the Southern Border who are fleeing violence, persecution, or torture.”


Published on October 7, 2021


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