Friday, March 31

What is Title 42, And Why Congress Needs to End It  – Daily Montanan

For more than two years, the U.S. border has been entirely closed to people fleeing persecution under a policy called “Title 42.” In March 2020, the Trump administration created this policy to stop asylum seekers from entering the United States. There simply is no legal, practical, public health, or moral reason to keep Title 42 in effect one day longer.

First, our track record in using infectious disease as a pretext to turn away immigrants is a shameful one. From 1882 to 1943, our immigration law kept out Chinese immigrants because “we” said they all had syphilis. From 1890s to the 1920s, we turned away Jewish refugees fleeing from pogroms because “we” said they had tuberculous.  

This is Title 42. Both the Trump and Biden administrations have used the pretext of COVID-19 to keep out today’s asylum seekers. Although all international travelers bear similar risks of being exposed to COVID-19, every other citizen traveler, green card holder, business visa holder, and tourist can get into the United States with a (mildly) inconvenient process of providing a recent negative COVID test. But for asylum seekers, a negative COVID test and even vaccination is not enough to enter the country. Title 42 assumes that they are unable to be free of disease.  

Second, the public health justification is not true. Starting on day one, experts at the Centers for Disease Control never supported this policy. Studies since then agree that COVID-19 is not spread by migrants entering our country. In fact, with vaccines and common-sense precautions, a very serious disease has morphed to an endemic that we are learning to manage with nuance.

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Third, Title 42 is having an unconscionable impact on people at our border.

The asylum seekers at our doorstep are from all over the world. They are from Cuba, Venezuela, Eritrea, Nigeria, Romania, and even Ukraine.  Instead of being let into the country where they can ask for asylum, they must either stay in Mexico, where cartels rob, kidnap, rape, and kill them with impunity, or are returned to the countries from which they fled.  

A common counter argument is, won’t we be overrun if we open the borders? The short answer is no. Ending Title 42 is not a radical reimagining of the border; it is simply a return to the asylum processing that existed for decades prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.  

On April 1, 2022, the CDC terminated Title 42 effective May 23, and President Biden proposed sending trained asylum officers to screen applicants as before. For those who qualify, they get the right to apply for asylum. And most do. In 2016, 88% of people at the southern border who were interviewed by an asylum officer had a credible claim for protection. 

For those who don’t, they are subject to the normal expedited removal process, a rapid deportation process that, while fast, at least has some basic rules and protections, unlike Title 42.

A second concern is: Aren’t we encouraging people to come to the U.S. by making it easier? Again, the answer is no.

As we can see with the Ukrainians, people don’t want to leave their home unless they have no other choice. People at the border do not come here after assessing the pros and cons our immigration policy. They come here because they want their children to live.

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 I strongly encourage you to contact our Senators and encourage them to vote no on any legislation that would extend Title 42. That is common sense and the right thing to do.

Kari Hong lives in Missoula with her family. She has been an immigration attorney for twenty years and is currently a Ninth Circuit attorney at the Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project 

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