The pandemic-era Title 42 public health policy — first enacted under the Trump Administration and continued under President Joseph Biden — allowed border authorities to expel asylum seekers expeditiously, resulting an estimated 2.8 million expulsions. While Title 42 officially ended May 11 after three years in effect, those seeking asylum in the United States now face new barriers.
The day before Title 42 ended, the Biden Administration announced a new rule, known as the “asylum transit ban.” Under this new order migrants are deemed ineligible for asylum if they do not schedule an appointment with U.S. immigration authorities at the border through the CBP One app, or first apply — and are denied — asylum protection in a country they traveled through.
Immigration advocates say these policies are a betrayal of President Biden’s campaign promises to build a more welcoming nation. They note that the right to seek asylum is a moral value that the United States enshrined into law after lessons learned in World War II, when millions of people who were forced to flee persecution desperately needed protection. Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, passed by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948, states that “everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.”
In addition to the Biden asylum transit ban, members of Congress have introduced separate proposals to narrow access to asylum even further. Among the proposals before Congress is the Border Security and Enforcement Act. This bill would make it nearly impossible for migrants to seek asylum in the United States and would also make it significantly easier to carry out deportations of asylum seekers already in the country.
It would restart practices from the failed and dangerous “Remain in Mexico” program and would mandate detention of asylum-seeking families entering the country outside of authorized points of entry. Lastly, the bill would subject unaccompanied children to an expedited removal process. All these protocols would have the effect of putting migrants, particularly including families and children, in grave danger.
“This bill will simply continue to harm immigrants and create divisions in our communities and our country without providing any solutions,” wrote 11 Catholic organizations working with asylum seekers in a letter to the House Judiciary Committee.
“The solutions are not to be found at the border but rather in Washington, D.C.,” Susan Gunn of the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns said, “where Congress has failed to enact meaningful immigration reform for more than 30 years.
“The United States desperately needs comprehensive immigration reform which includes opening up different legal pathways for migrants, rather than restricting asylum access at the border,” she said. “Our missioners on the border see it, and the president and members of Congress know it. They may not want to hear it, but as long as the cries of migrants go on, we will continue calling for justice.”
FAITH IN ACTION:
• Volunteer at the U.S./Mexico Border: Annunciation House in El Paso, Texas, welcomes lay and religious short and long-term volunteers to provide hospitality to migrants. Learn more at https://mogc.info/AH-volunteer
• Join an immersion trip to El Paso/Juarez organized by the Maryknoll Father and Brothers: https://mogc.info/border-immersion
• Find the latest research on the impact of U.S. border policies from a Catholic perspective at the Hope Border Institute: https://www.hopeborder.org/
The Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, based in Washington, D.C., is a resource for Maryknoll on matters of peace, social justice and integrity of creation, and brings Maryknoll’s mission experience into U.S. policy discussions. Phone (202) 832-1780, visit www.maryknollogc.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Featured Image: A day before Title 42 restrictions were lifted in May, a migrant mother seeking asylum holds her child at the U.S./Mexico border near El Paso, Texas. (OSV News photo/Reuters).