US ends Title 42 only to roll out sweeping asylum restrictions

MSF teams are bracing for the human impacts.

A man walks through the "Senda de Vida" migrant shelter in Reynosa, Mexico, at the US southern border. Hundreds of families relocated to this shelter in May 2022 after a camp that had formed in a public plaza was evacuated and cleared away. At the time, two thousand people were living in the camp, including hundreds of children.

Mexico 2022 © Yael Martínez/Magnum

Title 42, a public health rule used to block people from seeking asylum at the US southern border for more than three years, will end on May 11 as the Biden administration announces the end of the COVID-19 public health emergency. In its place, the US will use existing harsh immigration laws and newly announced asylum restrictions meant to deter people from crossing or seeking protection at the US southern border.  

The sweeping new asylum rule would disqualify most asylum seekers who pass through another country en route to the US southern border if they enter the US without authorization. All asylum processing at the US southern border would be funneled through CBP One—a smartphone app which can be difficult to access for people who struggle with language barriers, illiteracy, or issues accessing or using technology. This new rule is part of a series of policies imposed by the Biden administration that harm the physical and mental health of migrants and deepen an already acute humanitarian crisis in the region.    

Avril Benoît, executive director of MSF-USA, gave the following statement:  

Title 42 proved to be one of the US government’s most sweeping—and most cruel—anti-asylum policies. It used public health as a pretense to shut down asylum at the US southern border and purposely put people in harm’s way. We should be celebrating the end of Title 42 today. Instead, our medical teams are bracing for the human impact and suffering to come as the Biden administration rolls out sweeping new asylum restrictions.  

The Biden administration's new asylum restrictions will disqualify many of the most vulnerable refugees from asylum protections in the US. MSF, along with tens of thousands of concerned organizations and individuals, submitted a public comment voicing our objection to the rule and pointing to its harmful impact on the health and wellbeing of our patients.

After promising a humane and dignified immigration system, the Biden administration is now focused on erecting new barriers to seeking asylum in the US. It has turned its back on asylum seekers.   

Based on our experience working along migration routes all over the world, we know that for many of our patients, returning to their home countries is just not possible. So, they take risks in the hope of finding safety. For this reason, we know that harsh measures that seek to deter migration don’t work. They only force people to take bigger risks and expose more people to violence and danger. These new asylum restrictions will be devastating to people desperately fleeing violence and persecution.