New Report of Increasing Dangers Asylum Seekers Face as Biden Defends Use of Title 42 and Restarts MPP

WASHINGTON — A new report finds that dangers faced by asylum seekers at the U.S.-Mexico border are mounting, documenting more than 7,000 kidnappings and other violent attacks against migrants as the Biden administration continues to use the Trump-era Title 42 policy to block and expel asylum seekers and announces the restart of “Remain in Mexico,” another Trump administration policy that delivers asylum seekers to danger in Mexico.

The report, “Illegal and Inhumane”: Biden Administration Continues Embrace of Trump Title 42 Policy as Attacks on People Seeking Refuge Mount,” finds at least 7,647 kidnappings and attacks against people expelled to danger in Mexico or blocked from seeking U.S. protection since the Biden administration took office, and provides an update on the Biden administration’s continued use of Title 42 to illegally expel Haitians, including many asylum seekers, to life-threatening insecurity in Haiti.

“The longer the Biden administration embraces and wields Trump’s Title 42 policy, the more horrific violence asylum seekers and migrants subjected to this policy suffer,” said Julia Neuser, legal fellow for refugee protection at Human Rights First and co-author of the report. “The Biden administration has continued to use a policy condemned by public health experts, international authorities, civil rights leaders, and even departing members of his own administration.”

The Biden administration has doubled down on defending and escalating Title 42 expulsions, even after a September 2021 ruling finding the expulsion policy likely illegal, objections from key administration officialsmembers of Congress, and civil rights leaders, and despite lifting restrictions on “non-essential” travel. Last week, it announced it will restart the Trump “Remain in Mexico” program, or Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), which forced asylum seekers back to danger in Mexico, where they were targets of attacks and kidnappings.

“When the U.S. government delivers people seeking safety to danger in Mexico, whether through Title 42 or MPP, they face unimaginable violence and persecution,” said Kennji Kizuka, associate director of research & analysis for refugee protection at Human Rights First and co-author of the report. “The Biden administration’s continued embrace of Title 42 to illegally expel Haitian asylum seekers to grave danger adds yet another shameful chapter to an already long history of discriminatory U.S. policies to block Haitian people seeking refuge in the United States.”

The report’s findings also include:

  • While the Biden administration claims it lacks “capacity” to process asylum seekers using public health safeguards, it found the capacity, personnel and resources to violate refugee laws and send Black asylum seekers and migrants to life-threatening insecurity, expelling nearly 8,000 Haitians on at least 76 flights to Haiti in a few weeks.
  • The expulsion policy continues to endanger children, with reports of children kidnapped with their families, children raped in tent encampments and attempted kidnapping of children in a shelterRecords obtained by Human Rights First through FOIA show that Border Patrol wielded Title 42 nearly 29,000 times to expel children under 18, including more than 9,000 children under five, between January 21 and May 12, 2021.
  • The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) continues to directly refoul asylum seekers to countries of persecution and appears to coordinate with Mexican officials, subjecting expelled asylum seekers to chain refoulement. The agency had also continued so-called lateral expulsions.
  • The continued refusal to restart asylum at ports of entry pushes dangerous attempts to cross between ports; U.S. government records obtained by FOIA show turn backs from ports of entry included people from Belarus, Cuba, Eritrea, Venezuela, and Central America.
  • Customs and Border Protection officials at the southern border ports of entry are denying or ignoring nearly all requests for humanitarian parole.
  • Biden’s failure to lift the expulsion policy is forcing asylum seekers into life-threatening conditions in Mexico. Many are targeted, including a young Honduran woman kidnapped and trafficked immediately after DHS expelled her and a Salvadoran family held captive in a locked storage room for 20 days immediately after DHS expelled them.
  • Biden’s MPP reimplement will subject asylum seekers to additional brutal attacks and endanger attorneys and humanitarian groups assisting asylum seekers in Mexico; protection cannot be assured given the involvement and complicity of Mexican officers.

Human Rights First urges the Biden administration to terminate the Title 42 and MPP policies, uphold U.S. refugee laws and treaties, halt expulsions to Haiti and other countries, and restart asylum protections along the U.S.-Mexico border, including at ports of entry.

The full report can be found here.


Published on October 21, 2021


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