Florence Project, Kino Border Initiative, and the International Rescue Committee strongly oppose bipartisan Public Health and Border Security Act of 2022

The Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project, the Kino Border Initiative, and the International Rescue Committee strongly oppose the bipartisan bill, the Public Health and Border Security Act of 2022, intent on extending the deadline to terminate Title 42, despite the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) acknowledgement that Title 42 is no longer needed to protect public health within the United States. 

The bill drops all pretense that Title 42 is a measure to protect public health. In a context where other COVID-19 precautions at the border have fallen to the wayside, this bill continues to single asylum seekers out. It proposes a deferred timeline for the wind-down to Title 42, triggered by the end to the COVID national emergency. After that, DHS would have 30 days to submit a plan to Congress to process the increased number of migrants at the border, and Title 42 would only end 30 days after a plan had been submitted. The bill does not specify what would happen if Congress does not approve DHS’ plan – risking prolonged or even indefinite exclusion of asylum seekers. 

The migrants we have spoken to since this bill was introduced are heartbroken, and so are we. Just last week, when the Title 42 termination was announced, asylum seekers were celebrating that they would finally have the opportunity to escape danger at the border and seek protection in the U.S. Now their lives remain in peril due to this bill. 

“We must stop playing politics with people’s lives,” says Chelsea Sachau, Managing Attorney of the Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project’s Border Action Team. “While we agree that there must be coordination between the government and NGOs to ensure a just and humane outcome, we do not believe there is any excuse to justify leaving vulnerable children, families, and individuals in harm’s way for even a moment longer.” 

“For over two years, the COVID-19 pandemic has been used as an excuse to suspend the right to humanitarian protection for people fleeing violence and persecution in their home countries,” says Pedro De Velasco, Director of Education and Advocacy for the Kino Border Initiative.  “The CDC has determined that there is no longer any justification to keep this suspension in place- not that there ever was. These Senators are determined to maintain the inhumane and unjust Title 42 and with it, prolong the suffering of people who have been waiting for more than two years to be heard. We and other service providers are ready to collaborate with the U.S. government to welcome people seeking asylum. It is time to stop the excuses, stop the injustice, and to end Title 42 now!”

“The IRC has seen the negative impacts of Title 42 firsthand through its work in the U.S., Mexico, and Latin America,” says Olga Byrne, Director of Asylum and Immigration Legal Services of the International Rescue Committee. “For over two years, this harmful policy deprived thousands of asylum seekers of due process, sending them back to dangerous conditions similar to or worse than those they escaped. Across the U.S., Americans have shown their desire to welcome and support refugees amid the crises in Afghanistan and Ukraine. We must not simultaneously turn our backs on people seeking safety at our southern border. Title 42 must end and the rights of asylum-seekers to seek safety must be respected.”

Reception and legal services organizations in Arizona like ours are ready and eager to welcome asylum seekers. Like other organizations positioned at or near the U.S.-Mexico border, our three organizations have many years’ of legal and humanitarian expertise in working closely with federal, state, and municipal governments to welcome asylum seekers and immigrants. An end to Title 42 is not a radical reimagining of the border; it is simply a long overdue return to fulfilling our moral and legal obligation to offer those fleeing persecution access to protection. 

Everyday, we meet people who were kidnapped and beaten, people who were raped, and people who suffered other acts of violence and threats because they were displaced at the border under Title 42. We have condemned Title 42 since the day it was announced, and every day since we have been, and will continue to be, open to working with the federal government to bring this unjust policy to its end. We applaud the Biden administration for finally acting to end this dangerous policy, but remain deeply disappointed that this legislation attempts to continue the use of this unsafe and unnecessary provision. People fleeing violence and persecution should not have their rights to seek protection in the United States infringed.