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Immigration Law

Neither Safety nor Health: How Title 42 Expulsions Harm Health and Violate Rights

Kathryn Hampton, Michele Heisler, Cynthia Pompa, Alana Slavin, July 28, 2021

"Toward the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, the Trump administration overrode the objections of public health experts at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and compelled the CDC to issue an order under Title 42 U.S.C. section 265 of the 1944 Public Health and Service Act that closed the border to migrants and asylum seekers. The government used public health as a pretext to summarily expel children and adults seeking refuge at the U.S. border more than 980,000 times, while at the same time allowing other types of travelers to continue to cross the border with no testing or quarantine requirements. Public health experts strenuously objected to the ban, pointing out the lack of epidemiological evidence for only banning this category of entrants to the United States while keeping the borders open to other travelers. A letter from public health experts in July 2021 reiterated that the latest scientific knowledge regarding transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19 did not support expulsion as a public health measure, and thus that the order undermined trust in the CDC itself as a scientific body.

Nevertheless, six months into the Biden administration, the U.S. government continues to expel families and adults to countries where they face severe harm and persecution, violating their rights and failing to safeguard public health. The Biden administration also continues to carry out chaotic border expulsions that perpetuate family separation and further traumatize an already vulnerable population."