Title 42: “Human Rights Stain, Public Health Farce”

WASHINGTON D.C. –  The end of the Title 42 expulsion policy is scheduled for December 21 but supporters of the policy are still attempting to force its continuation. Today, Human Rights First released “Human Rights Stain, Public Health Farce,” a report that tracks the harms the policy has inflicted over the last two years and recommends the end to the U.S. government’s evasion of refugee law under the policy.

Human Rights First tracked at least 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.

“For more than two years, the U.S. government has used Title 42 to evade asylum law and subject people seeking safety to unimaginable horrors. We have tracked a staggering number of kidnappings, rapes, instances of torture, and other violent attacks against people turned away from U.S. asylum due to Title 42, and the cases we have tracked represent just a small fraction of the true number,” said Julia Neusner, research and policy associate attorney for refugee protection. “The U.S. government must end Title 42 once and for all and fully restore access to asylum at the border.”

The report makes clear that the misuse of Title 42 – initiated by the Trump administration and used for nearly two years by the Biden administration — is a public health, border management and human rights fiasco.

“It’s long past time for politicians to end efforts to force the continuation of a policy that inflicts massive human suffering, tramples on refugee law and has indelibly stained this country’s human rights record,” said Eleanor Acer, senior director for refugee protection. “As this misuse of public health authority approaches its end, the last thing the Biden administration should do is try to replace the inhumane Title 42 policy with yet another cruel policy from the Trump playbook, such as an asylum transit ban.”

Rather than providing a solution to issues at the border, the Title 42 policy inflicts disorder and grave human rights abuses.

The report also found that:

  • The administration’s October 2022 expansion of Title 42 to Venezuelans has denied thousands access to the U.S. asylum process in flagrant violation of U.S. refugee law. This expansion stranded adults, families, and children in dangerous Mexican border cities where they were targets of kidnapping, torture, and brutal attacks. It has subjected others to onward refoulement to face persecution and torture and separated many families.
  • Mexican asylum seekers fleeing persecution and torture have been trapped in or expelled by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to the country they are trying to escape, and denied access to the U.S. asylum process in violation of U.S. law and non-refoulement legal obligations.
  • Faith-based, humanitarian, and legal workers who assist asylum seekers stranded in Mexico by Title 42 face mounting threats and attacks from violent cartels.

The report is based on in-person interviews Human Rights First conducted with asylum seekers in Ciudad Juárez in December 2022 and Tijuana in September 2022; interviews by telephone and in-person with attorneys, other humanitarian workers and additional asylum seekers in Mexico conducted from October to December 2022; reports of attacks drawn from an ongoing survey of asylum seekers in Mexico conducted by Al Otro Lado between mid-June and early November 2022; open-source information identified by students from the University of California Network for Human Rights and Digital Fact Finding (Berkeley, Santa Cruz, Los Angeles); review of U.S. government data; as well as media and other human rights reporting.

Human Rights First published prior research on the Title 42 policy in June 2022, April 2022 (with Al Otro Lado and Haitian Bridge Alliance), March 2022, February 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.


Published on December 16, 2022


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