White House must drop harmful Title 42 policy in line with new COVID strategy

Title 42 policy has no basis in medical science or public health.

The White House today unveiled its new COVID-19 strategy for the “next phase” of the pandemic response. The plan comes days after the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced it is relaxing guidance on indoor dining, masking, and social distancing, all of which are evidence-based measures introduced to protect public health. The plan, however, makes no mention of rescinding Title 42, a policy with no basis in medical science or public health, initially invoked by the Trump administration and extended by the Biden administration using the pandemic as a pretext to essentially close the border to asylum seekers. 

Using Title 42 in this way causes harm to people seeking safety in the US, singling out migrants and asylum seekers. Since March 2020, Title 42 has been used to authorize over 1.45 million expulsions from the US. Nearly one million of those expulsions happened between February and December 2021 on the Biden administration’s watch.

Statement from Avril Benoît, Executive Director, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) USA 

For almost two years under Title 42, the US has used the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse to close the border to asylum seekers. This devastating policy has exposed highly vulnerable people to more violence and danger. With its new COVID-19 preparedness plan and updated community guidance, the Biden administration and the CDC are clearly signaling a new phase to the COVID-19 response. Yet the administration continues applying Title 42 to turn away people seeking protection in the US.

The Biden administration is promoting a policy of learning to live with the virus for people in the US, while simultaneously blocking and expelling asylum seekers at the US border due to supposed COVID-19 public health concerns. This is an outrageous double standard. 

There has never been any legitimate public health justification for Title 42. Today, as the Biden administration moves toward a new approach to this pandemic, the CDC cannot credibly continue to renew this public health order. The CDC and the Biden administration must rescind Title 42 immediately.