Rights of Asylum Seekers Put on Hold Again

WASHINGTON DC – Human Rights First is deeply disappointed in yesterday’s Supreme Court decision that allows the failed and inhumane Title 42 expulsion policy to continue while the Court considers the quest of a group of Republican-led states to intervene at the thirteenth hour in a case challenging the policy. The organization again calls on the Biden administration to vigorously defend its decision to end the expulsion policy, take immediate action to preserve asylum and refugee law at the United States’ borders to the fullest extent consistent with recent court decisions concerning the use of Title 42 and to swiftly commence rulemaking to terminate this policy once and for all.

The American public overwhelmingly supports protecting access to asylum for those fleeing persecution and ensuring that the process to exercise that legal right is safe, fair, and humane. Our elected leaders must work to ensure this crucial lifeline is protected while modernizing processing at our southern borders to meet the urgent humanitarian needs of those seeking safety.

While it explicitly does not rule on the legality of the Title 42 expulsion policy, the Supreme Court’s decision leaves the policy in place while the Supreme Court considers whether a group of states should have been allowed to intervene in the case after the federal district court found the Title 42 policy to be illegal.

“Lost in this peculiar procedural history is the lack of any public health justification for continuing a policy that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has ordered terminated, and the massive human toll on the refugees affected,” said Eleanor Acer, Senior Director of Refugee Protection. “The decision rewards politicians aligned with the prior administration who are manipulating the courts to keep that administration’s cruel and counterproductive anti-immigrant policies in place. The perpetuation of the Title 42 policy evades U.S. legal obligations towards asylum seekers and undermines U.S. leadership on human rights globally. The Biden administration must urgently take all steps legally permissible to protect the rights of asylum seekers at our borders and to terminate this policy.”

Human Rights First’s research, updated in a report issued earlier this month, has found over 13,480 reports of murder, torture, kidnapping, rape, and other violent attacks on migrants and asylum seekers blocked in or expelled to Mexico under Title 42 since President Biden took office.

The dissenting opinion of Justices Gorsuch and Jackson noted that “courts should not be in the business of perpetuating administrative edicts designed for one emergency only because elected officials have failed to address a different emergency. We are a court of law, not policymakers of last resort.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) attempted to end the Title 42 policy in May 2022. Still, in the wake of an adverse court order issued in a separate case by a federal judge in Louisiana that forced the policy’s continuation in a lawsuit brought by state attorneys general aligned with the former Trump administration, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) continued to implement it. Human Rights First joined with over 100 partners following the Louisiana court decision urging President Biden, Secretary Mayorkas and CDC Director Walensky to take specific actions to end the policy, including immediately commencing rulemaking to rescind the CDC’s Title 42 order, publicly and proudly defend plans to restore access to asylum and forcefully oppose legislative efforts to codify or extend the Title 42 order and do all that is within the administration’s power to restore asylum access and mitigate the harms of Title 42 while it remains in effect.



Published on December 28, 2022


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