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NEW YORK – Ahead of the 107th World Day for Migrants and Refugees more than 150 Catholic organizations are imploring President Joe Biden to end Title 42 – a border policy that allows the immediate expulsion of migrants and limits their right to seek asylum.
“Your call and promise during your campaign to ‘restore the soul of the nation’ spoke to a return to morality in furtherance of just and humane law and policy,” the organizations wrote in a Sept. 23 letter to the president. “The continued misuse of Title 42 fails to respect the dignity of migrants and refugees and honor God’s image in every human person.”
There’s been a renewed scrutiny of Title 42 in recent days in light of the situation in Del Rio where thousands of migrants – mostly Haitians – crossed the Rio Grande River into the U.S. and are stationed underneath the city’s international bridge. The situation escalated through last week into early this week completely overwhelming border authorities.
The Biden administration responded by using the policy to expedite removal flights back to Haiti. The move led the U.S. special envoy for Haiti Daniel Foote to resign on Sept. 23. A day earlier, auxiliary Bishop Mario Dorsonville of Washington, the U.S. Bishops Conference Committee on Migration chair, and Sister Donna Markham, president and chief executive officer of Catholic Charities USA spoke out against the administration’s handling of the situation.
“Policies such as Title 42 and expedited removal all too often deny the reality of forced migration, disregard the responsibilities enshrined in domestic and international law, and undermine the vulnerability of those against whom they are applied,” they said in a statement.
Immigration advocates, particularly Catholic organizations along the U.S.-Mexico border, have consistently advocated against the continuation of the March 2020 policy since Biden took office.
The president denounced the policy on the campaign trail but has left it in place through the first eight-plus months of his presidency in response to a record number of border crossings.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection expelled 938,045 migrants at the border via Title 42 from October-August (Fiscal Year 2021 minus September). The expulsions skyrocketed from February to March, approximately 72,000 to 107,000 respectively. The number then peaked in May at about 111,500 and has declined since. There were about 91,000 Title 42 expulsions in August, according to data compiled on the CBP website.
In addition to the 938,045 Title 42 expulsions CBP detained 535,432 other migrants in Fiscal Year 2021 through August, and encountered another 266,825 “inadmissible” migrants – those who seek lawful admission into the U.S. but are deemed inadmissible – bringing its total number of encounters to 1,741,956.
Title 42 expulsions are done on the grounds of public health, mainly preventing the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and other local leaders have made the claim that migrants are contributing to a rise of COVID-19 cases in some localities, though there isn’t concrete data to back those claims. In the letter to the president, the faith organizations called connecting migrants to COVID-19 as a basis for Title 42 a “false, hateful, dehumanizing narrative.”
“Even if a true public health risk existed … The policy solution would be to provide vaccines and meet healthcare needs, not send asylum seekers back to situations where their lives and freedom are at risk,” the letter reads. “Faith and community-based organizations are ready to assist in providing testing, vaccines and healthcare but are currently being prevented from doing so.”
The 164 Catholic signatories of the letter hail from 27 states and include almost 30 national organizations. Amongst them is the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., Kino Border Initiative, Hope Border Institute, local Catholic Charities, parishes, and religious congregations.
The organizations also noted that Title 42 discourages decision makers at every level of government “from legislating and crafting policy with human dignity and heart.” They closed the letter emphasizing the need to be there for the migrant community.
“We cannot absolve ourselves of our sacred responsibility to care for our migrant siblings,” they wrote. “The misuse of Title 42 is a travesty that perpetuates grave harm not only on the migrant community, but upon all of us living in the United States. Move the United States towards an ever wider ‘we’ – end the misuse of Title 42.”
Follow John Lavenburg on Twitter: @johnlavenburg