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USA: Upholding dangerous immigration policy will harm people throughout the Americas

The decision on 20 May by a US judge to block the termination of Title 42 is an affront to the human rights of people in search of safety throughout the Americas region, said Amnesty International today. 

Since the implementation of Title 42 in March 2020 – a measure initially created by the Trump administration under the pretext of COVID-19 that authorizes expulsions without screenings or asylum protection – tens of thousands of asylum seekers have been expelled to the countries from which they fled. In conjunction with the Remain in Mexico policy – a policy under which the US government forcibly returned people to Mexico while awaiting an asylum claim in the US – asylum seekers have been left stranded in camps along the US/Mexico border where they are in extraordinary danger, and potentially further pushed into harm’s way. 

“Title 42 expulsions have always been a xenophobic policy thinly disguised as a public health measure. The decision to halt its termination is a devastating blow to human rights in the Americas and will put countless lives at risk, in violation of US law and international law. It sends a message to governments across the Americas that the United States has total disregard for the human right to seek asylum, setting a shamefully bad example in the protection of the rights of people in search of safety. While the Biden Administration continues the fight to end Title 42 in the courts once and for all, the US Congress must block any proposed legislation that would either delay termination or make Title 42 expulsions permanent,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International. 

States in the Americas should engage in international cooperation to effectively and concretely respect human rights in the asylum process of each state, and to remove determinants that have pushed people into displacement.

Amnesty International has published extensive research about the impact of Title 42 on different groups of people in need of international protection: 

Impact of Title 42 on Haitian Migrants

In December 2021, in conjunction with the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies, Haitian Bridge Alliance, the Global Justice Clinic at NYU School of Law, the Groupe d’Appui aux Rapatriés et Réfugiés (GARR), Refugees International, Rezo Fwotalye Jano Siksè and Service Jésuite aux Migrants Haiti, Amnesty International published information about the risks Haitians face when expelled under Title 42. 

Title 42 expulsions have always been a xenophobic policy thinly disguised as a public health measure. The decision to halt its termination is a devastating blow to human rights in the Americas and will put countless lives at risk, in violation of US law and international law

Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International

Amnesty’s research found that under the guise of public health, the US made regular misuse of Title 42 order to conduct mass expulsions and block Haitians and others from seeking asylum. This practice, widely criticized by the United Nations, health experts, human rights organizations and even US officials, put people at increased risk of contracting COVID-19 and appears to have facilited racism, xenophobia, and discrimination in US border policies. The use of excessive force against Haitian migrants and asylum seekers by border agents on horseback in Del Rio, Texas in September 2021 reflected experiences of systemic racism and anti-Blackness inherent in the policing system throughout the country. 

Meanwhile, Amnesty International research gathered in October 2021 similarly found that other states across the Americas, including Mexico, Chile and Brazil, are failing to shield Haitians on the move from a range of human rights violations, including detention and unlawful pushbacks, extortion, anti-black racism, abuses including gender-based violence by armed groups, and destitution. These combined failures by states leave tens of thousands of Haitians without international protection and often unable to rebuild their lives anywhere in safety.

Since the beginning of 2021 and continuing even today, the US has been responsible for the vast majority of expulsions of Haitians to potentially grave danger, with smaller numbers deported from Mexico and other Caribbean islands.

Impact on Unaccompanied Children 

In June 2021, Amnesty International published information about the forcible returns of tens of thousands of unaccompanied children into harm’s way as a result of policies like Title 42. From March to November 2020, the Department of Homeland Security apprehended and summarily expelled at least 13,000 unaccompanied migrant children based on Title 42. In mid-November 2020, a federal court temporarily ordered the US government to stop deporting children under Title 42; and in late January 2021, President Biden issued an Executive Order to continue to exempt unaccompanied children from Title 42. 

These exemptions have led to mass separations of families, as parents make the impossible choice of sending their children to the US as unaccompanied children while parents stay behind in Mexico, where they face serious danger.  

For more information or to arrange an interview, contact: 

Duncan Tucker (Amnesty International Americas): [email protected]

Vanessa Parra (Amnesty International USA): [email protected]