Immigrants' Rights Advocates Head Back to Court Over Title 42 Expulsions

WASHINGTON — Groups that sued the Trump administration over Title 42 expulsions of asylum seekers are heading back to court after hitting an impasse in negotiations with the Biden administration to end the policy.

The American Civil Liberties Union, Texas Civil Rights Project, RAICES, Center for Gender & Refugee Studies, Oxfam, ACLU of Texas, and ACLU of the District of Columbia are challenging the Title 42 expulsions.

They are seeking an immediate halt to the policy, which restricts immigration at the border based on an unprecedented and unlawful invocation of the Public Health Service Act, located in Title 42 of the U.S. Code.

The policy was implemented during the Trump administration, in violation of longstanding immigration statutes requiring that asylum seekers receive a full and fair proceeding to determine their right to protection in the United States.

The following comments are from:

ACLU attorney Lee Gelernt, lead lawyer on this case: “We gave the Biden administration more than enough time to fix any problems left behind by the Trump administration, but it has left us no choice but to return to court. Families’ lives are at stake.”

Karla Marisol Vargas, Senior Attorney, Texas Civil Rights Project: “We took the government to court over Title 42 because the lives of children, entire families, and extremely vulnerable people are on the line. It’s beyond cruel to use an obscure public health rule to turn away families seeking safety without due process and functionally shut down our asylum system — it’s illegal. People have a legal right to seek safety in America and our government has the resources to safely process them into the country to have their cases heard. Initial promises on the part of the Biden administration to phase out Title 42 for only family units will not do enough. It is time to double down on the push to end Title 42 and force the government to follow the law.”

Tami Goodlette, Director of Litigation, RAICES: “Now more than ever — during a global pandemic — we need safe pathways for asylum seekers to access lawful protection in the United States. Instead of building this infrastructure, the Biden administration is following Trump's lead and continues to block immigrants from lawfully seeking asylum in the United States. Rather than keeping anyone safe from COVID-19, the Title 42 expulsion scheme has created a mess at the border and the administration continues to shroud avenues for border processing in secrecy. As a result, RAICES and others are taking the Biden administration back to court to end this unlawful and inhumane practice.”

Neela Chakravartula, Managing Attorney, Center for Gender & Refugee Studies (CGRS): “We are deeply disappointed that the Biden administration has abandoned its promise of fair and humane treatment for families seeking safety, leaving us no choice but to resume litigation. The Title 42 policy imperils the very lives of children and parents fleeing persecution. It’s racist, it’s illegal, and it has no valid basis in public health, as medical experts have attested for over a year now. That the administration has chosen to continue this Trump-era policy, which violates our domestic and international legal obligations to refugees, is a moral failure and an abdication of leadership.”

Noah Gottschalk, Global Policy Lead, Oxfam America: “The Biden administration knows full well that maintaining Title 42 won't stop the spread of COVID or prevent people who are literally fleeing for their lives from seeking safety in the U.S. The administration is choosing to treat refugees like political pawns, and so we are eager to return to court so we can end Title 42 for families once and for all.”

Shaw Drake, Staff Attorney and Policy Counsel on Border and Immigrants’ Rights, ACLU of Texas: “The Biden administration’s ongoing unlawful expulsion of vulnerable families must stop. The policy has not only furthered the Trump administration’s aim to end asylum at the border, it has resulted in the return of countless families to danger by this administration. The administration should have ended the policy, which is not based on any public health rationale, immediately. Now we must return to court to stop the harm families continue to endure across the border and in Texas.”