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New Hypocrisy in US Immigration Policy

Administration Ends One Abusive Program, Keeps Title 42 Expulsions in Place

Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas speaks during a press briefing at the White House, September 24, 2021, in Washington. © 2021 AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas acknowledged the “substantial and unjustifiable human costs” to migrants subjected to former President Donald Trump’s “Remain in Mexico” program in a memo issued last week terminating the program. This is good news.

The bad news is, Secretary Mayorkas and the Biden administration are still pursuing a separate Trump policy known as Title 42, that continues to return migrants to that same harm in Mexico.

The program Mayorkas terminated Friday, the abusive Remain in Mexico policy officially called the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), resulted in more than 71,000 asylum seekers being returned to dangerous Mexican border cities where they have been targeted for kidnapping, extortion, rape, and other violence, and have lacked access to food, water, and shelter.

The secretary was right to end the policy. In the termination memo, the first of its kind in acknowledging DHS’ responsibility for the abuses migrants faced, Mayorkas wrote that MPP meant “individuals were subject to extreme violence and insecurity at the hands of transnational criminal organizations that profited from putting migrants in harms’ way.”

But how then can the administration justify continuing Title 42, another anti-asylum measure, that has the same result?

The Title 42 summary border expulsion policy was implemented under the false guise of public health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), against the will of its top doctors, improperly issued the order authorizing DHS to perform the expulsions under political pressure. Top public health experts have also condemned the policy.

The Biden administration has nonetheless embraced the policy, using the authority more times in its first six months than the Trump administration did in 11 – resulting in over 800,000 of the 1,277,858 total expulsions under Title 42.

Migrants expelled to Mexico under Title 42 are targeted for similar violence as those returned under the MPP and experience difficulties accessing basic services since they often lack legal status to live or travel in Mexico.

If Mayorkas cannot explain how Title 42 expulsions don’t cause the same harms as the Remain in Mexico policy that he just terminated, logical consistency – if not obligations under international law – should compel him to terminate Title 42 expulsions as well. 

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