The Biden administration announced yesterday that it will expand the use of the harmful Title 42 expulsion policy to include Venezuelans. Under the new rules, Venezuelans crossing the US border between ports of entry will be expelled to Mexico. In conjunction, the Biden administration announced the rollout of a humanitarian parole program that will allow 24,000 Venezuelans who have a financial sponsor and meet other eligibility criteria to safely make their way into the United States.
As a medical humanitarian organization, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has long called for the end of Title 42, a public health order that has been misused during the COVID-19 pandemic to effectively close the US southern border to asylum seekers. Title 42 has resulted in over two million expulsions in less than three years. Until now, however, Title 42 had not applied to Venezuelans.
MSF has been responding to health and humanitarian needs along the US-Mexico border in towns like Reynosa, Matamoros, Nuevo Laredo, and Piedras Negras, where many migrants and asylum seekers are stranded after being expelled from the US. MSF already sees that migrants in border towns and elsewhere in Mexico are living in extremely difficult conditions, struggling to access food, water, sanitation, and medical and psychological care as a direct result of Title 42.
Statement from Avril Benoît, Executive Director, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)-USA
We are shocked by the Biden administration’s decision to start expelling Venezuelans under Title 42, a cruel and inhumane policy that has no basis in safeguarding public health and that should have been ended long ago. While we welcome the rollout of a special humanitarian parole program for Venezuelans, ensuring safe pathways into the US should be the norm and not the exception.
The small size of the parole program is nowhere near what is needed. More than six million Venezuelans have fled their country in recent years due to political and economic upheaval, with the vast majority living in Colombia and other countries in Latin America. Increasing numbers of Venezuelans are making the long and difficult journey to the US because they are suffering from extreme dangers and hardships elsewhere. This expansion of Title 42 to include Venezuelans will undoubtedly create more chaos, expose more migrants to violence, and drive humanitarian needs across the US-Mexico border. It will leave tens of thousands of additional migrants–including many families and children–trapped in Mexico.
Applying Title 42 to thousands of Venezuelans fleeing crisis conditions flies in the face of the Biden administration’s commitments to rebuilding a safe and humane asylum system.
There has never been a legitimate public health basis for Title 42, and there is certainly no legal or policy justification for maintaining it. The US Centers for Disease Control belatedly recognized this fact when the agency attempted to terminate the order in May. While the Biden administration has been blocked by court order from ending Title 42, that is no excuse for expanding the policy.
Once again, we call on the Biden administration to end Title 42. This administration must live up to its pledge to build a safe and humane migration system, including by taking swift action to reopen and properly resource asylum processing at the US southern border. The administration’s approach is basically one step forward, two giant steps back—and this has terrible costs for thousands of migrants and asylum seekers.
Photo caption: A Venezuelan man and his daughter are pictured in the Tumbes region of northern Peru where MSF runs health posts to provide medical care to migrants.