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AOC, Pressley Slam Biden for Using Title 42 to Expel Venezuelan Asylum Seekers

Democrats and progressives are frustrated that Biden officials are expanding Title 42 rather than ending it.

A Venezuelan migrant holds a child in her arms upon arriving at an improvised shelter in Panama City, on October 23, 2022.

Democrats and progressives are condemning the Biden administration for its continued use of Title 42, a cruel anti-immigration pandemic policy that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is now using to expel Venezuelan asylum seekers arriving at the southern U.S. border.

In a letter with 24 signatories, spearheaded by Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D-New York) and Sen. Bob Menendez (D-New Jersey), lawmakers criticized DHS’s announcement, saying that the continued use of Title 42 is “morally wrong, discriminatory, and unlawful.”

Expressing their “profound disappointment” with the DHS decision, the lawmakers said that “Title 42 violates our nation’s domestic and international legal obligations by placing asylum seekers at risk of extreme violence.” The letter was signed by prominent progressive lawmakers like Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York), Ayanna Pressley (D-Massachusetts) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Michigan).

The lawmakers wrote that the policy is racist, citing a report from a public health expert from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention saying that Title 42 is used “to keep Hispanics out of the country.” The lawmakers also pointed out that experts have said that the policy — which is supposedly being employed to stop the spread of COVID-19 — has no public health basis.

Using Title 42 against Venezuelans is especially heinous, the lawmakers wrote, given that the administration itself has acknowledged the danger of sending people at the border back to Mexico, noting that it puts people at risk of kidnapping, sexual assault or death.

“It is critical that the Administration reassess the decision to implement Title 42 against Venezuelan asylum seekers at the U.S.-Mexico border,” the lawmakers continued. “We have a moral and legal responsibility to ensure that our immigration policies respect human rights and recognize the dignity of all human beings seeking refuge.”

The letter echoes one sent by dozens of human rights organizations earlier this month, also urging DHS to reconsider the policy. “DHS can and should take all legally permissible steps to restore access to asylum at ports of entry, regardless of the asylum seeker’s nationality or other factors, and to cease — not expand — Title 42 expulsions,” reads the letter, which was signed by immigrant rights groups like Human Rights Watch and RAICES.

Earlier this month, DHS announced that it would be expanding the use of Title 42, a policy originally invoked by President Donald Trump that has been used to deport at least 1.8 million asylum seekers — including, infamously, last year and early this year when DHS sent over 20,000 Haitian asylum seekers to Haiti, despite the danger, violence and instability that some asylum seekers warned they would face there.

The agency announced this time that it would be cracking down on asylum seekers from Venezuela, much to the dismay of immigrant rights advocates who have long contended that Title 42 is used to discriminate against non-white asylum seekers and should have been ended months, if not years ago.

Earlier this year, the Biden administration announced that it would be ending the use of Title 42 in May. But the move was blocked by a Trump-appointed judge, and the Biden administration is working on appealing the injunction.

Although advocates lauded Biden’s announcement that Title 42 would be ended, they also expressed frustration that the administration hadn’t ended the policy far earlier.

Although Biden promised on the campaign trail that he would end the policy in his first year in office, he has actually ramped up the use of the inhumane policy, expelling more asylum seekers during his first months in office than Trump ever did. The Biden administration is still expelling tens of thousands of asylum seekers each month, despite moving to end the policy.

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