The IRC applauds yesterday’s court decision by U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan to strike down the ongoing enforcement of Title 42 at the U.S. border. 

Established under the Trump Administration, the Title 42 policy has been used to justify nearly 2.5 million expulsions under the pretext of public health. The continued use of this policy for almost three years has prevented asylum seekers from exercising their right to seek protection under U.S. and international law, and has put thousands of vulnerable individuals and families in harm’s way. There is no public health rationale for the policy, as confirmed in the court’s decision: nationally, most pandemic-era restrictions have been rolled back and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has determined that less harmful mitigation measures would be sufficient to protect public health. Earlier this year, the Biden Administration expanded the scope of Title 42 to additional nationalities, including Venezuelans, despite publicly stating that the pandemic was over

The IRC calls on the Biden Administration to abide by the court’s ruling and put an end to Title 42 without delay. The Administration should not appeal this decision or implement other restrictive measures in reaction to the decision that would impede access to protection. Instead, the IRC calls on the Administration to use this moment to build a safe, orderly, and dignified asylum process in line with U.S. values and humanitarian obligations. 

Olga Byrne, IRC Director of Asylum and Immigration Legal Services, said:

The end of Title 42 is long overdue. Seeking asylum is a human right, protected under both U.S. and international law. 

The IRC has seen the dangerous consequences of Title 42 firsthand through work in the U.S. and Latin America. In a recent IRC assessment, over half of people interviewed on the Mexican side of the border reported that they were survivors of crime, including sexual assault, kidnapping, and threats. This reality was echoed in the court's decision, which noted that the policy often returns families and individuals fleeing danger to “locations with a ‘high probability’ of ‘persecution, torture, violent assaults, or rape’” and that “it is undisputed that the impact on migrants was indeed dire.” Judge Sullivan’s decision confirms that the decision to ignore this harm that would be caused by the policy was “arbitrary and capricious”. 

The Biden Administration must move forward from this decision to build a safe, orderly, and dignified asylum process. Local border communities have demonstrated time and time again their willingness and capacity to welcome asylum seekers. Now is the time for the federal government to work with civil society and local governments to create a national strategy for the reception of newly arrived asylum seekers.