Human Rights First: New Title 42 Order Continues Harmful Policy, Puts Asylum Seekers at Risk in Mexico

WASHINGTON — Human Rights First expressed grave concern about a new Centers for Disease Control (CDC) order issued today, based on Title 42 of U.S. law, and the Biden administration’s use of that order to continue to expel adults and families at the border.

“It’s deeply disturbing and disappointing that the Biden administration has decided to double down on the use of Title 42 to continue to circumvent U.S. refugee law,” said Human Rights First’s Senior Director for Refugee Protection Eleanor Acer. “Like its predecessors, this order evades refugee law and endangers the lives of people seeking protection. The Biden administration’s continued use of Title 42 to expel adults and families back to danger in Mexico will lead to even more suffering, kidnappings and attacks. The Biden administration should be ending illegal and harmful Trump administration policies, not adopting and prolonging them.”

As of June 2021, Human Rights First had tracked over 3,250 cases of asylum seekers and migrants kidnapped, raped or attacked after being blocked or expelled to Mexico – since the Biden administration took office in January.  Public health experts have repeatedly explained that asylum seekers can be safely processed using public health measures.

Concerns raised by this latest order purporting to authorize expulsions based on Title 42 include:

  • The order does not once address U.S. law and treaty obligations requiring the United States to protect refugees from return to persecution and other harm, referring only in passing to “humanitarian concerns” despite specific, public call from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees – well over two months ago – to “swiftly lift the public health-related asylum restrictions that remain in effect at the border and to restore access to asylum for the people whose lives depend on it, in line with international legal and human rights obligations.”
  • While asylum-seeking adults and families remain blocked at the U.S.-Mexico border and subject to immediate expulsion due to the CDC order, more than 10 million people entered the United States through the southern border in the month of June 2021 alone – nearly 10 times the total number of encounters by CBP and Border Patrol this past year at the southern border.
  • The order disturbingly and disingenuously treats the protection of asylum seekers and other vulnerable populations in the United States as a zero-sum game. The order appears to pit the safety of asylum seekers against the health of the “unvaccinated population” in the United States with the order noting that the lowest vaccination rates are among, “adults aged 18-24, non-Hispanic Black adults, and individuals with less education, no insurance, and lower household incomes.”
  • Underlying the supposed justification for the CDC order is the Department of Homeland Security’s continued reliance on the detention of adults and families arriving in the United States to seek safety and the failure of the Biden administration to implement and support communitybased case support initiatives, which are highly successful.
  • The CDC’s order repeats without support the false claim first put forward by the Trump administration’s CDC order in March 2020 that the families and adults “do not have homes in the United States” where they can shelter. Yet, a survey of asylum seekers at the U.S.-Mexico border found that nearly 92 percent had family or close friends in the United States with whom they could stay.

“This troubling order will no doubt be used to bolster the disingenuous and xenophobic narrative, pushed by Texas Governor Greg Abbot and other allies of former President Trump that asylum seekers and migrants present some kind of threat of disease spread in the United States,” said Acer. “The Biden administration and the CDC should be standing up for the truth, not helping to fuel that false, dangerous and racist narrative.”


Published on August 2, 2021


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