Federal Court Blocks Expulsions of Families Seeking Safety

Washington, D.C. — Today a federal court blocked Title 42 expulsions of families seeking safety, issuing a preliminary injunction in Huisha-Huisha v. Mayorkas. Under the Title 42 policy the U.S. government has turned thousands of families away at the border, returning them to the very violence they have fled or stranding them in some of the most dangerous parts of Mexico, where human rights investigators have documented rampant violence against migrants. The court’s decision today finds Title 42 to be in violation of U.S. law and recognizes the grave harm the policy has caused families and children escaping persecution.

Members of the #WelcomeWithDignity campaign, which include organizations serving people expelled under Title 42 and litigators in the Huisha-Huisha case, responded:

“The court got it right today,” said Neela Chakravartula, Managing Attorney at the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies (CGRS) and co-counsel in the Huisha-Huisha case. “The Title 42 policy is as illegal as it is dangerous. The Biden administration’s decision to continue expulsions – over objections from public health experts and human rights advocates – has fueled violence and chaos at the border and endangered thousands of vulnerable families escaping persecution. It is long past time for this inhumanity to end.”

“This ruling supports what immigration advocates and medical experts have argued since the beginning: Title 42’s only purpose is to keep families and children from seeking asylum in the U.S. and inflict suffering ,” said Paola Luisi, Director of Families Belong Together. “It’s long past time to reckon with the harm done by past administrations and ensure our government centers the dignity and humanity of people seeking safety here. The Biden administration must end Title 42 for all and restore the asylum process for people seeking safety.”

“Today’s decision confirms what we’ve been saying all along – expulsions under Title 42 are xenophobic and unlawful and must be stopped,” said Ursela Ojeda, policy advisor for the Migrant Rights and Justice Program at the Women’s Refugee Commission. “Although the court’s injunction only applies to asylum-seeking families, expulsions of single adults under Title 42 are also illegal and must immediately end. We call on the Biden administration to comply with the preliminary injunction and not to appeal the order. It is well past time for this administration to change course by ending expulsions and other cruel, unnecessary, and unlawful deterrence based policies and start living up to its promise of building a more humane and orderly immigration system that welcomes with dignity.”

“In the wake of this decision, the Biden administration must choose to uphold the refugee laws enacted by Congress rather than permanently stain the President’s legacy by continuing to perpetuate and escalate this illegal and inhumane Trump policy.” said Eleanor Acer, senior director for refugee protection at Human Rights First. “The Biden administration must restart asylum processing, including at ports of entry, stop sending families and adults to suffer terrible violence, and permanently end this horrific policy designed by the Trump administration to punish refugees for seeking safety in the United States.”

“Today’s decision is a welcome step to begin restoring asylum in the U.S. for families seeking refuge,” said Meredith Owen, Director of Policy and Advocacy at Church World Service. “However, the Biden administration must immediately end all Title 42 expulsions and terminate the immoral Trump policy. It is unconscionable that the administration has yet to end this inhumane policy despite leading public health experts repeatedly denying any public health rationale. We are deeply troubled by the disproportionate impact this policy has on Black migrants seeking safety, most evident by the deportation flights to Haiti today. It is long past time for this administration to honor its promises to restore the asylum program and welcome all people with dignity.”

“While we are ecstatic that the federal court has recognized the unlawfulness of using Title 42 health considerations to justify the expulsion of asylum seeking families and unaccompanied children, considering there is no medically-sound rationale for this policy, we are calling on the Biden Administration to immediately end this policy for all of those seeking safety in the United States, including adult women and men,” said Sara Ramey, Executive Director of the Migrant Center for Human Rights.

“This is an important step forward in restoring the protections that asylum-seeking families undeniably have a right to pursue,” said Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, President and CEO of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service. “Our nation’s immigration policy must align with our values. Expelling families without due process is the antithesis of America’s highest ideals. We are grateful for a just ruling, and we urge the Biden administration to rescind in full this vestige of its predecessor.”

“We welcome the court ruling dismissing the misuse of Title 42 at the border for families. But we call on the President to see the dignity in all human beings and rescind the use of Title 42 for everyone seeking asylum at our southern border,” said Ronnate Asirwatham, Director, Government Relations, NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice.

“Through the illegal Title 42 policy, the U.S. government continues to subject countless asylum seekers to ongoing violence and danger while they are displaced at the U.S.-Mexico border,” said Chelsea Sachau, Equal Justice Works Fellow at the Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project. “The Florence Project welcomes the news that a federal court has recognized that Title 42 violates the law by expelling asylum-seeking families at the border without giving them any meaningful opportunity to be considered for protection. The illegality of this program has been apparent from Day 1 and public health officials, advocates, and immigrants have been calling for the full repeal of Title 42 for over eighteen months. This decision, while a critical step in the right direction, still falls short of eliminating this illegal program in its entirety. We continue to call on the administration to end Title 42 for every person seeking safety in the United States at once and urge the administration to immediately restart full asylum processing across the border.”

“Under the Title 42 expulsions a lot of Indigenous people — from what is now known as Latin America — were forced back to the violence, injustices, and settler colonialism they fled in the first place,” said Dr. Jessica Hernandez (Maya Ch’orti/Binnizá-Zapotec), Climate Justice Policy Strategist for International Mayan League. “The United States government was trying to justify their harmful acts against Indigenous peoples under the pretense that it was for public health concerns. To use public health as a tool to force Indigenous peoples to face these hardship conditions demonstrates the deep genocidal acts the United States continues to implement against Indigenous peoples of the Americas. Many Indigenous migrants lose their Indigeneity within the immigration discourse because they are labeled as Latinx or Hispanic. These forced identity labels need to stop so that Indigenous rights can be highlighted and uplifted within immigration policies. As an Indigenous-led organization, we are glad the federal court blocked the U.S. government continuing to expel Indigenous peoples and other refugees under Title 42. They saved many Indigenous lives from Abya Yala, including those of our displaced Mayan relatives currently withheld at detention centers.”

Jesuit Refugee Service/USA welcomes the federal court’s order barring the Biden Administration from implementing Title 42, a harmful and destructive policy,” said Joan Rosenhauer, Executive Director of Jesuit Refugee Service/USA. “In light of this decision, the Biden Administration must change course and reinstate a fair and humane asylum process at the US southern border.”

“Once again, a federal court has ruled that Title 42 expulsions have no lawful basis,” said Azadeh Erfani, Senior Policy Analyst at the National Immigrant Justice Center. “White supremacy, and not public health, fueled the creation of these expulsions under Trump. We urge the Biden administration to seize on this ruling to finally do the right thing: end this discriminatory and unlawful policy that returns asylum seekers to harm for everyone, including adults.”

“A federal court has ruled that Title 42 is illegal with regard to families. Title 42 means expelling human beings to danger and harm in Mexico and other countries that persons have fled for their safety. Justice has prevailed for vulnerable human beings vying to access the U.S. asylum process. Policies that subject people to harm have no place in the U.S. immigration system even during a pandemic,” said Margaret Cargioli Managing Attorney at Immigrant Defenders Law Center.

“Judge Sullivan’s decision blocking the administration’s unlawful use of Title 42 to expel families is a long overdue step, but more must be done to end this cruel policy,” said Avideh Moussavian, director of federal advocacy for the National Immigration Law Center. “The previous administration weaponized Title 42 and the Biden administration has inexplicably continued to use it for the past eight months. It has disproportionately affected Black and LGBTQ asylum-seekers and puts everyone expelled under it at risk of kidnapping, trafficking, torture, and even death. The Biden administration must immediately rescind Title 42 for all people, once and for all, as part of its efforts to create a fair and humane asylum system that centers the dignity and humanity of people coming here seeking safety.”

“La Raza Centro Legal San Francisco stands with asylum seekers in celebrating the end of unjust Title 42 expulsion policies at our nation’s border,” said Amanda Alvarado Ford, Esq., Executive Director at La Raza Centro Legal San Francisco. “Human beings have a right to live free from harm and to escape those who persecute them. We will continue standing with immigrants and will advocate, one family at a time, for a more equitable society we can envision and will one day achieve.”

“As a network of Latin American immigrant-led organizations, we applaud the decision to stop the use of Title 42 as the basis to immediately return migrants seeking humanitarian protection at our borders. We must also get rid of the idea that migrants and migration are a negative factor for the U.S. and their countries of origin. They are a blessing. Our laws must be changed to reflect how invaluable they are,” said Oscar Chacon, executive director of Alianza Americas.

“We welcome that the federal court acknowledges the unique harm that Title 42 inflicts on asylum seeking families and unaccompanied children,” said Jane Bentrott, counsel at Justice Action Center. “However, Title 42 is unlawful in every respect, has been condemned by epidemiologists and public health experts to have no scientific standing, and should not be applied to anyone. Indeed, the court also found that ‘the Title 42 Process is likely unlawful’ in its entirety.  The Biden Administration must end Title 42 to ensure that the U.S. complies with international and domestic legal and moral standards.”

“We are thrilled by today’s news that a federal court found the use of Title 42 unlawful. This decision is long overdue. Under the guise of protecting public health, Title 42 has placed children and families in danger and contributed to devastating family separations” said Santiago Mueckay, Manager of Federal Government Relations at Save the Children. “While Title 42 must be rescinded in full, today’s decision is an important and encouraging step in the right direction.”

“Let’s face it, Title 42 expulsions represent the dregs of government’s acrimony toward migrants, and should have no place in the Biden Administration,” said Matt Nelson, Executive Director, Presente.org. “True dignity means that our government does not traffic in white supremacy and exclusion. Compassion, not callousness, must guide our treatment of those seeking refuge and protection.”

“The district judge in this case recognized what we’ve long known: Title 42 does not give the government the authority to flout the laws and deny families the right to seek asylum,” said Dylan Corbett, Executive Director of the Hope Border Institute. “It’s time for the Biden administration to restore protections for all asylum seekers. Our border community is ready to welcome them with open arms.”

“Title 42 was based on a myth—that asylum seekers pose a public health risk that is somehow different from the risks posed by other people moving from place to place,” said Gladis Molina Alt, Executive Director, Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights. “Public health experts debunked this myth last year. And yet two administrations have relied on the policy despite the plain language of U.S. and international law, which require us to offer fair process to people seeking protection from persecution. The policy has endangered the lives of children and families who were sent back to traffickers and persecutors, or left stranded in Mexico. Judge Sullivan’s decision orders an end to this practice as it applies to families, but we must continue to push for an end to Title 42 for all migrants seeking protection at the border. We have a long way to go in creating a humane, dignified process for migrants seeking protection.”