Biden's extension of Title 42 endangers lives and disregards public health practice

"This order has nothing to do with safeguarding public health."

Mexico migrants displaced by violence flee to the USA

Mexico 2021 © Yesika Ocampo/MSF

The Biden administration’s decision this week to extend the Title 42 order—a rule that allows the blocking and rapid expulsion of people seeking protection at the US border—endangers the lives of families and adults and disregards proven public health practices to prevent COVID-19 transmission, said the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF).

MSF, which provides health care and mental health services throughout the migration route in Mexico, has documented the dangers faced by people quickly expelled to Mexico under Title 42. Migrants are sent back to dangerous border cities, where they often have no access to shelter or basic services. They are at extremely high risk of kidnapping and violence and are vulnerable to criminal groups. Many of the people MSF treats in locations near the US border have fled violence in their home countries or survived violence along the migration route.

Dr. Carrie Teicher, the director of programs for MSF-USA, gave the following statement:

Title 42 is a cruel policy that exploits public health concerns around COVID-19 and treats people seeking protection as vectors of disease. More than a year into this pandemic, we know how to safeguard against this virus and we have vaccines that minimize transmission, illness, and death. It’s unacceptable for the US government to say that the renewal of this policy is the best way forward.

Using the Title 42 order, the US government has blocked and quickly expelled people seeking protection at the US border since March 2020. The rule denies adults and families the right to seek asylum and leaves them vulnerable to violence in dangerous cities along the US-Mexico border. Since February, the Biden administration has carried out more than half a million expulsions under Title 42

Recent reports confirm a forthcoming plan to vaccinate migrants in US custody at the southern border. This will exclude those expelled under Title 42 which further highlights how this order has little to do with safeguarding public health.

By employing evidence-based measures, including vaccinating and testing asylum seekers at the border, the US is capable of simultaneously preserving fundamental protections to asylum seekers and safeguarding public health.

The Biden administration pledged to overturn harmful policies and expand pathways for protection in the US, but it has instead chosen to continue to instrumentalize the COVID-19 pandemic to manage the border. The Biden Administration must rescind Title 42 and implement proven public health measures to restart processing asylum seekers at the border. The lives and well-being of thousands of people depend on repealing this policy.