Human Rights First Welcomes Decision to End Title 42 Policy, Calls for Halt to Expulsions to Danger

WASHINGTON D.C. – After two years of steadfast advocacy, Human Rights First welcomes today’s decision by the Biden administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to terminate the Title 42 policy that has been used to illegally block and expel people seeking asylum in the United States.

WASHINGTON D.C. – After two years of steadfast advocacy, Human Rights First welcomes today’s decision by the Biden administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to terminate the Title 42 policy that has been used to illegally block and expel people seeking asylum in the United States.

Human Rights First urges the Biden administration and Department of Homeland Security to ensure the safety of people seeking asylum and halt their expulsions to persecution and torture immediately. Human Rights First will continue to monitor the treatment of asylum seekers until the policy is fully terminated and remains gravely concerned about any expulsions of asylum seekers during the termination implementation period, which ends on May 23, 2022.

“The Biden administration and the CDC have rightly decided to terminate this Trump policy – a policy that we have spent two years opposing due to the horrific human rights abuses it inflicts on people seeking asylum, and we urge a swift end to this humanitarian travesty,” said Eleanor Acer, senior director for refugee protection at Human Rights First. “During the termination implementation period, the Biden administration should quickly restart asylum at ports of entry, end the discriminatory double standards in access to asylum, and immediately halt expulsions of asylum seekers to persecution and torture.”

Human Rights First has tracked reports of attacks against the families, adults, and children blocked from U.S. asylum protection since the Title 42 policy was first issued by the Trump administration in March 2020. As of March 15, 2022, there were at least 9,886 reports of kidnapping, torture, rape, and other violent attacks on people blocked in or expelled to Mexico under the Biden administration’s continued use of the Title 42 policy. Last month, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit found that the Title 42 policy is likely illegal and that the U.S. government “cannot expel [asylum seekers] to places where they will be persecuted or tortured.”

The suffering inflicted by the Title 42 policy is staggering,” said Kennji Kizuka, associate director for refugee protection research at Human Rights First, who led the organization’s efforts to document the impact of the policy. “In our research, people seeking refuge in the United States have recounted enduring torture, kidnappings, and brutal assaults due to the Title 42 policy. Every day that the policy remains in use, the Biden administration is turning away people to suffer serious and systematic human rights violations. We will continue to monitor this policy until it is completely and permanently ended.”

As the Biden administration restores compliance with U.S. refugee law, it must swiftly restart processing of asylum claims at ports of entry, immediately cease expulsions, coordinate and support groups welcoming asylum-seekers to the United States, and avoid jailing them while they await adjudication of their cases. People seeking asylum should be allowed to remain with their families and communities across the United States as their cases are decided, and provided support to find attorneys to assist them.

Human Rights First’s Efforts to Document and End Title 42

Over the last two years, Human Rights First has interviewed countless asylum-seekers, attorneys and human rights monitors and published more than a dozen reports and research updates documenting the grave human rights violations caused by the policy under both the Trump and Biden administrations: March 2022February 2022, January 2022, December 2021, November 2021 (with Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project), October 2021, August 2021, July 2021 (with Hope Border Institute), June 2021, May 2021 (with RAICES and Interfaith Welcome Coalition), April 2021 (with Al Otro Lado and Haitian Bridge Alliance), December 2020, and May 2020. A recent ruling by a federal district court cited a declaration from Julia Neusner, an attorney who is part of Human Rights First’s research team, in discussing the harms inflicted by the Title 42 policy.

Human Rights First has also partnered with epidemiologists and other public health experts—led by experts at Mailman School of Public Health Program on Forced Migration, Johns Hopkins Center for Humanitarian Health, Milken Institute School of Public Health, Physicians for Human Rights, and Doctors of the World—who repeatedly explained publicly, to both the Trump and Biden administrations, that the Title 42 policy is specious from a public health perspective and should be ended. These experts developed recommendations for using public health measures to process asylum-seekers while upholding refugee law.  Human Rights First greatly appreciates the expertise and principled voices of these epidemiologists and public health experts.

To speak with Eleanor Acer, Kennji Kizuka or others at Human Rights First, please contact Eleanor Donohue, [email protected], (202) 704-5840.


About Human Rights First

Human Rights First is an independent advocacy and action organization that challenges America to live up to its ideals. For 40 years the organization has worked to press the U.S. government and private companies to respect human rights and the rule of law. When they fail, Human Rights First steps in to demand reform, accountability and justice. Human Rights First is based in New York, Washington D.C., and Los Angeles.


Published on April 1, 2022


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