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UUSC Applauds Court Order Halting Biden’s Unlawful Title 42 Asylum Blockade

Human rights organization urges the Biden administration to let the ruling stand and to immediately restore full access to U.S. asylum procedures.
For Immediate Release: September 16, 2021

Media Contact:
Michael Givens
Director of Strategic Communications
Unitarian Universalist Service Committee
Phone: +1-857-540-0617
Email: mgivens@uusc.org

On Thursday, September 16, U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan issued a preliminary injunction, blocking the U.S. government from expelling asylum-seeking families under the Title 42 order that was first put in place in March 2020. The order will take effect in 14 days, pending appeal.

In response, UUSC’s President Rev. Mary Katherine Morn issued the following statement:

“Today’s court order is a tremendous if long-overdue win for families at our borders, who—for nearly 18 months now—have been unlawfully deprived of their right to seek asylum under U.S. and international law. We celebrate with the directly-affected families, advocates, and attorneys who made this result possible through their tireless advocacy and unwillingness to accept the unacceptable.

UUSC was founded at a time when Jewish refugees and other survivors of Nazi persecution were being turned away at our shores. And now, in one of the most extreme anti-immigrant measures to go into effect since the U.S. asylum system began, our government is once again repeating this disgraceful history by expelling people to harm. As documented by UUSC’s partner the UndocuBlack Network, the implementation of the Title 42 order has targeted Black asylum-seekers with particular brutality, denying Haitian refugees and others the protections they are due under law and returning them to grave risk in the countries they fled.

While both Trump and Biden tried to cloak these heinous actions under the mantle of public health, this has been opportunism, plain and simple. From the moment Title 42 went into effect to the present, public health experts have consistently denounced expelling and turning away refugees, and the United Nations refugee agency has repeatedly stated that governments have the capacity and obligation to both protect public health and uphold refugee law at the same time. Judge Sullivan’s decision offers a long-awaited, if partial, step toward reestablishing these fundamental principles of humanitarian law.

As pleased as we are to see this decision, we also recognize its limits. The court’s order applies only to families, leaving adult asylum-seekers traveling alone at continued risk of expulsion. Moreover, the decision does not go into effect for two weeks, and there is a serious danger the Biden administration may attempt to appeal and overturn this ruling in the meantime. Finally, it is shameful that it took a federal court order to finally halt this policy, given that advocates—including UUSC—have consistently urged the Biden administration since they took office to completely terminate Title 42 and restore full access to asylum in the U.S.

We urge President Biden to turn the page on this disgraceful chapter. Rescind the order authorizing the Title 42 policy, cease all expulsions, and restore access to asylum procedures for all people who request them, including adults traveling alone. Thursday’s order came just weeks after a similar ruling barring the U.S. government from turning away asylum-seekers at ports-of-entry. The Biden administration can can prevent the delays and costs associated with litigation by simply doing the right thing and abiding by the plain text of U.S. law, which still today—as it has every day since 1980—requires the government to process the asylum case of every person who requests it.”

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The Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC) is a human rights and solidarity organization founded as a rescue mission in 1940 during the Holocaust. Based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and with a membership of more than 35,000 supporters across the United States, UUSC’s programs focus on the issues of climate change, migrant justice, and crisis response.

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