Today the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indefinitely extended Title 42 public health restrictions at the border until “he determines the serious danger from COVID-19 has ceased.”

These restrictions, implemented in the name of public health, are a farcical abdication of our duty to those seeking safety and refuge in the United States. Furthermore, they effectively put individuals who are in the “Remain in Mexico” program in indefinite detention and complete limbo, unable to seek asylum in the United States, and forced to choose between living in dangerous conditions for the foreseeable future or returning to the very conditions they fled.

“This is a complete tragedy for asylum seekers in Nogales and across the border, whether they are in MPP or not,” Alexandra Miller, Florence Project Border Action Team Managing Attorney, said. “Just this Monday, our partners at the Kino Border Initiative attempted to present two people for asylum who have fear claims in Mexico, and they were blocked. Now all these people, who simply are looking to the U.S. for safety, are in purgatory. They are at risk of harm in Mexico and at a heightened risk from the virus because they do not have stable shelter or access to healthcare.”

Protecting public health and offering asylum seekers, including children, the protection they are owed under U.S. and international law are not mutually exclusive. In fact, the overwhelming majority of asylum seekers in “Remain in Mexico” have a family member or friend with whom they can live in the United States so they can safely shelter in place until the threat posed by COVID-19 has passed.

For the last three years, the administration’s anti-immigrant rhetoric and fearmongering have been escalating, and this is another attempt to divide Americans and sow fear and hatred for others. Viruses do not respect borders, and they do not discriminate. This is a global pandemic, and we must come together to protect those in need, not turn them away.