The highly controversial U.S. policy of eliminating asylum seekers at the Mexican border has officially ended as the Biden administration prepares for an expected increase in arrivals. The Title 42 public health order, utilized to deny entry to over 2.8 million asylum seekers since March 2020, formally expired on Thursday at 11:59 pm. With the expiration of this order, the U.S. government can no longer use public health as a reason to expel migrants seeking asylum.
Former U.S. President Donald Trump introduced Title 42 at the Mexican border, citing the need to control the spread of COVID-19. This decision has been welcomed by human rights groups who had criticized the policy, arguing that it violated international law and put vulnerable individuals at risk. However, some officials have expressed concern that ending Title 42 could lead to a surge of migrants at the border and exacerbate the ongoing immigration crisis.
Following widespread criticism, the U.S. has officially terminated its polarizing policy of turning away most asylum seekers at the border with Mexico. The Biden administration is now preparing for a possible increase in arrivals.#mexicoborder #Title42EndsThursday #Title42ends pic.twitter.com/3sFVLfJQr1
— News Live (@NewsLiveFree) May 12, 2023
Opposition Against the Border Policy
The Title 42 policy has ended now, coinciding with the conclusion of the federal COVID-19 public health emergency on May 11. The current U.S. administration, led by President Joe Biden, has deployed more troops and resources to the US-Mexico border in anticipation of a possible influx of migrants seeking asylum. Despite some concerns about a potential surge, the decision to end the controversial policy has been widely applauded by human rights organizations, who have condemned it as a violation of international law and a threat to the safety of vulnerable individuals.
The U.S. government recently announced a new regulation that will make the majority of refugees and asylum seekers arriving at the southern border with Mexico ineligible to seek asylum in the United States. The rule, which will go into effect after the expiration of Title 42, has sparked concerns among those seeking asylum. However, critics claimed that the policy was a tactic to restrict immigration. As a result, many individuals have hurried to cross the border in the days leading up to the end of Title 42, fearing that gaining entry into the U.S. will be significantly more challenging once the new policy takes effect.
Asylum Seekers Risk Crossing River to Reach U.S. Border
Human rights groups have criticized the Biden administration for the regulation, which they claim violates international laws regarding the rights of refugees and asylum seekers. On Wednesday, numerous individuals arrived in the Mexican border town of Matamoros, opposite Brownsville, Texas. In addition, these individuals stripped off their clothes and carried plastic bags filled with clothes as they descended a steep bank and entered the river. One man was even seen carrying a baby in an open suitcase on his head.
Upon reaching the U.S. side, they changed into dry clothes and navigated through concertina wire. In an attempt to be allowed to stay legally and pursue their immigration cases in the immigration courts, many of them surrendered to authorities. However, given the backlog of cases in the immigration courts, the process of pursuing their cases could take years.
Human Rights Groups Criticism of the U.S. Government
Human rights groups have criticized the U.S. government for the long delays in the immigration court system, which they claim can prolong the suffering of vulnerable asylum seekers. On Wednesday, hundreds of people were spotted crossing the border wall in San Ysidro, California, opposite Tijuana, Mexico, waiting for U.S. authorities to process their cases. Among those present were families with young children and individuals from Colombia, Brazil, Afghanistan, and Turkey.
Despite the humanitarian aid provided, the long wait for processing by U.S. authorities can be arduous for these vulnerable individuals, and they may face many difficulties in seeking asylum. To help individuals keep warm in the freezing temperatures at night, members of the American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker charity, distributed silver reflective blankets. To keep themselves warm, some of the asylum seekers started campfires.
Angelica, an Indigenous woman from Colombia, hopes to claim asylum in the U.S. According to Al Jazeera, she spent two nights sleeping on the ground, hoping to secure asylum. She flew from Colombia to Mexico and climbed over the border wall in Tijuana. She stated that she was seeking asylum due to the threats she received from criminals in Colombia but was uncertain what would happen next at the border. For fear of reprisals, she did not want her last name to be used.
U.S. Defends Border Policies
Rights groups have advocated for the abolition of Title 42, but they also criticized the Biden administration for relying on policies that would prevent people fleeing desperate situations from seeking refuge. Most people seeking asylum at the US-Mexico border are escaping political instability, widespread violence, and socioeconomic problems in their home nations in South and Central America and nations like China, Turkey, and Russia.
According to Al Jazeera’s Teresa Bo, reporting from the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince, the U.S. policy shift is unlikely to deter individuals from attempting to flee Haiti, given the country’s widespread gang violence and hunger. Moreover, Al Jazeera reporter Teresa Bo, who is in the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince, reported on the increasing desperation among people seeking to leave the country amid widespread gang violence and hunger.
The population in Haiti is desperate to feel safe again. It is willing to take any possible measures to secure their safety. Bo further added that many people are unaware of Title 42 and are just trying to leave the country to feel safe. She also added that when they visited a government office on Wednesday, hundreds of people were waiting for their passports, which indicated their willingness to leave Haiti.
The Biden government has come under criticism for its policies, with some accusing it of failing to live up to its commitment to creating a more humane immigration system. However, the White House has defended its approach, stating that it is focused on “enforcement, deterrence, and diplomacy.” On Tuesday, White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre emphasized that the administration has a multi-agency plan to humanely manage the situation at the border.