New Report Finds Continued Use of Illegal Trump Border Policy Endangers Asylum Seekers

WASHINGTON — Asylum seekers continue to face grave danger at the southern border as the Biden administration extends the Trump administration’s misuse of Title 42 public health authority to illegally deny protection to asylum seekers, according to a report from Human Rights First, Haitian Bridge Alliance and Al Otro Lado.

The report, Failure to Protect: Biden Administration Continues Illegal Trump Policy to Block and Expel Asylum Seekers to Danger, details how the Biden administration’s use of the illegal expulsion policy endangers children, drives family separations and illegally returns asylum seekers to danger – including Black and LGBTQ refugees forced to endure bias-motivated violence. The policy creates disorder, pushes crossings between ports of entry, and threatens the health and safety of asylum seekers and migrants.

“The Biden administration’s decision to use this illegal Trump administration policy is wreaking havoc, driving family separations and delivering families, adults and children seeking refuge to persecution, kidnappings and escalating violence. It’s not the solution, it’s the problem,” said Kennji Kizuka, Associate Director of Research and Analysis for Refugee Protection at Human Rights First. “The Biden administration should end this dangerous policy, uphold U.S. refugee laws and restart asylum processing without further delay.”

“Black asylum seekers have borne the brunt of the Title 42 policy. Haitian and other Black migrants flee violence, instability and persecution in their countries, then travel a long and treacherous journey to the U.S.-Mexico border seeking safety and security in the United States,” says Nicole Phillips, Legal Director of Haitian Bridge Alliance. “Instead of security, they are detained and abused by immigration officers and – under the Title 42 policy – summarily expelled back to the country they fled without any chance to seek protection. As this report demonstrates, the harm caused by the policy is cruel, unnecessary and illegal.”

“The expulsion of refugees without due process is no different than what our government did in the build-up to World War II when it refused to accept hundreds of Jewish refugees aboard the MS St. Louis,” said Nicole Ramos, Project Director for Al Otro Lado’s Border Rights Project. “After being turned away from our shores, many of the refugees aboard the St. Louis were killed in the Holocaust, just as many refugees turned away and expelled under the expulsion policy today are being kidnapped, raped, tortured, or even killed.”

The report found that:

  • The Biden administration is blocking asylum-seeking families and individuals at ports of entry and expelling those who cross the border to danger in Mexico. Human Rights First has identified at least 492 public and media reports of violent attacks since January 21, 2021 – including rape, kidnapping and assault – against people blocked from requesting asylum protection at the U.S.-Mexico border and/or expelled to Mexico.
  • None of the more than 150 asylum seekers whom Human Rights First interviewed in March and April 2021 were referred to apply for asylum or given a protection screening by U.S. immigration officers before being expelled to Mexico.
  • Black asylum seekers and migrants face disproportionate harms under the expulsion policy. A survey by Al Otro Lado in Baja California reveals that 61% of Haitian asylum seekers blocked from U.S. asylum protections were victims of crime while in Mexico. The Biden Administration has also flown hundreds of Haitians back to their country while it is beset by violent political turmoil. These policies amount to another inexcusable episode in the U.S. history of discrimination against Haitian asylum seekers and migrants.
  • Family separation is still occurring, and the illegal expulsions policy continues to endanger unaccompanied children. Some children are being expelled from the United States without the proper screening for trafficking risk, and CBP continues to separate children from their adult relatives who are expelled to Mexico – increasing the number of children held alone in influx facilities and shelters.

“While the Biden administration is bringing into safety some families who were stranded in danger under the Trump administration’s Remain in Mexico program, it is expelling others to the very same grave harms,” said Julia Neusner, a legal fellow with the refugee protection team at Human Rights First, who interviewed asylum seekers in Mexico for the report. “So many of the families I interviewed were treated as though they were not even human beings.”

The report calls on the Biden administration to:

  • End the use of and withdraw the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) order used to expel and block asylum seekers in violation of refugee laws and, instead, direct the CDC to use evidence-based measures to protect asylum seekers;
  • Restart the asylum request process for individuals who fear returning to their home country and employ humane policies to process those seeking refugee protection;
  • Cease all expulsions and deportation flights to Haiti, redesignate Haiti for Temporary Protected Status and call on the Department of Homeland Security Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties to investigate the effects of expulsions and other policies on Black asylum seekers and migrants; and
  • Address human rights abuses in the countries refugees are fleeing and support regional resettlement initiatives to provide other pathways to safety.

The full report can be found here.


Published on April 20, 2021


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