This week's news of the Biden-Harris administration's about-face on U.S. refugee policy was a win for all the progressive forces that have been pressuring Biden to discontinue Trump's egregiously low cap on the number of refugees accepted each year. But the victory did nothing to change the other massive structural ways in which the Biden-Harris administration is continuing to perpetuate the humanitarian crisis at the border through its embrace of Trump's other asylum policies.
For example, even as the Biden-Harris administration now says it will increase the refugee cap to 62,500, rather than adopting Trump's annual cap of 15,000 refugees as it had earlier announced it would do, the Biden-Harris administration is still continuing the Title 42 program that Trump imposed a year before, effectively closing the border to most refugees with no due process, court date or record of an asylum application.
Since Trump implemented the Title 42 program on March 20, 2020, more than 630,000 people have been expelled from the United States, 240,00 of them on Biden's watch.
Republicans and Democrats alike are preoccupied with the so-called border crisis."There is no crisis at the border caused by migrants," Nicole Phillips, legal director of the Haitian Bridge Alliance, told Truthout. "There is a humanitarian and human rights crisis because the U.S. government has effectively closed the border to asylum seekers and has not allowed them to file for asylum since March of 2020."
More Haitians were returned to Haiti in the first two months of the Biden-Harris administration than in all of fiscal year 2020, according to a report titled, "The Invisible Wall," that was released on March 25, 2021, by the Haitian Bridge Alliance, the UndocuBlack Network and the Quixote Center. Haitians, who make the long, treacherous journey to the U.S.-Mexico border are fleeing instability, violence and persecution in Haiti, "only to be abused by ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] and CBP [Customs and Border Protection] officers," the report notes.
The Biden-Harris administration's continuation of Title 42 to expel asylum seekers is causing family separations, as documented in an April 2021 report published by Human Rights First, Haitian Bridge Alliance and Al Otro Lado. The policy propels desperate families to send their children over the border to protect them from kidnapping, sexual assault, and other forms of violence. Moreover, CBP is still separating children from aunts, uncles and grandparents with whom they traveled to the border and expelling those relatives to Mexico.
In addition, the administration has continued Trump's policy of expelling mothers who have just given birth in the U.S. with their newborn U.S. citizen children to Mexico with no proof of citizenship for their babies.The Title 42 Policy Is Based on a False Assumption
The "Biden-Harris [administration] is hiding behind Title 42 in order to justify keeping the border closed because they're afraid of the backlash from Republican and right-wing media," Phillips said. "Harris should know better," as she opposed Title 42 when she was a senator. Harris, along with Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey, signed a letter calling for an end to Title 42. In March, Biden made Harris his point person on immigration.
The Title 42 expulsion policy is based on the misapplication of an obscure public health law. The Public Health Service Act of 1944 was designed to grant quarantine authority to health officials which would apply to all persons, including U.S citizens, arriving from a foreign country. It was never intended to be used to distinguish between noncitizens who could or could not be removed or expelled from the U.S., according to Human Rights Watch.
Section 265 of U.S. Code Title 42 allows the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to "prohibit " the introduction" into the U.S. of individuals if the director believes that "there is serious danger of the introduction of [a communicable] disease into the United States."
Like Trump, the Biden-Harris administration is disingenuously using the excuse of health hazards from the COVID virus to justify continuing the Title 42 closure, in spite of the consensus by experts that there is no correlation between the entry of migrants and increased risk of COVID infection. It is really a political decision.
Using Title 42 to keep migrants out of the United States was the brainchild of Stephen Miller, Trump's immigration adviser. Although the CDC opposed the program because it was not supported by a public health rationale, the director succumbed to pressure by Vice President Mike Pence and other administration officials. "It has become clear that the Trump Administration used the coronavirus pandemic as a pretext for its larger racist, xenophobic and anti-immigrant plan to close the U.S.-Mexico border to migrants seeking humanitarian protection," according to "The Invisible Wall" report.Expelled Migrants Face Dangers in Mexico
Migrants whom the U.S. government turns back at the border including mothers with young children are "sitting ducks" for kidnappers and others when they are returned to Mexico. Human Rights First identified at least 492 reports of violent attacks since January 21, 2021, including kidnapping, rape and assault against people who were stranded at the border and/or expelled to Mexico. Eighty-one percent of LGBTQ asylum seekers have reported attacks, including rape, kidnapping, trafficking, and other violent assaults.
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