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UndocuBlack: The Cruelty Behind Title 42 and Its Impact on Black Migrants

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Let’s make one point crystal clear, Title 42 is a pretext to the blatant racial animus that characterized the Trump administration’s immigration policies and also a violation of the U.S. immigration statutes and its international obligations of non-refoulment

The official reason for the enaction of the policy by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is to protect Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers and the public health from COVID-19, public health emergencies. And to curtail the swarm of people in congregate settings such as that in immigration detention centersBut as all harmful policies, this policy, specifically and disproportionately, affects the Black and brown immigrants who are making the treacherous journey to the U.S. seeking safety from violence, civil unrest, murder and natural disasters.

Incubated by President Donald Trump’s immigration adviser, Stephen Miller, and nurtured by Vice President Mike Pence and other administration officials, the policy has been utilized to quickly and efficiently expulse vulnerable migrants out of the U.S. without due process to request asylum. Trump downplayed the COVID-19 virus and likened it to the regular flu, meddled the pandemic science to the extent he offered injecting disinfectants into the veins as if offering a presidential concoction of home remedy treatments to a COVID-19 cure.

He seems to have a conflicting stance as his administration worked tirelessly to heighten the spread of the virus only when it came to immigration, particularly the immigration of Black and brown migrants, to the already fear and paranoia-stricken folks dealing with the global pandemic. The 208th Title 42 expulsion flight left for Haiti last week, carrying men, women, families, mothers and children to imminent danger and underscoring the disproportionate impact of the policy on Black migrants.

There is, nor has been, any medical or public health justification to enact and implement this policy. If the U.S. is welcoming non-asylum seekers and tourists to enter the country while dealing with the pandemic, there is no reason why the welcome needs to differ when it comes to migrants seeking safety.

Many people are familiar with Trump’s campaign slogan and wish to build a wall, but only few would realize he, indeed, has gotten a wall. An invisible one, with Title 42 cloaked as a public health directive. Peeling away its euphemistic code and reasoning, the policy is inherently anti-Black and as most policies that disproportionately harm the Black and brown migrants do, Black and brown migrants have been slipping through the cracks of this presumably public health code.

This wall might be created by the Trump administration, but it is being perpetuated by the Biden administration. As an administration that has previously opposed this policy and promised to undo Trump’s harmful policies, the Biden administration has kept Title 42 in place to block and expel asylum seekers and use this harmful policy to its full extent. Not only is it illegal for the government to expel people to places where they would be placed under imminent danger, but the Biden administration’s decision to embrace Trump’s deadly expulsion policy will also leave a lasting stain on its legacy. Anyone who expresses fear of returning to their home country – or any other place they may experience harm – should be given the opportunity to seek protection through a fair and timely process in the United States. The administration should ensure access to legal counsel and community support and not rely on detentions and expedited expulsions. 

In October, more than 1,300 medical professionals from 49 U.S. states and territories called on the Biden administration to end this “Junk Science” border expulsion policy aka Title 42, noting that it had ‘no basis in public health best practice and no substantive public health justification.

The Biden administration’s decision to partially terminate Title 42 expulsions of unaccompanied children is a baseline step towards the moral choice to fully terminate the policy. While unaccompanied children are now exempt from experiencing the cruelty of Title 42, the policy will continue to harm children, pregnant women and other vulnerable populations as long as it is in place. This policy, while cloaked as a public health directive, has denied people their right to seek asylum for nearly two years in violation of both domestic and international law.

More Haitians have been removed per the Title 42 policy in the weeks since President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris took office than during all 2020 fiscal year.

Nothing less than ending this cruel Trump-era policy for everyone will serve as a remedy for the harm that the Biden-Harris Administration has caused to so many. The Biden administration can save its fractured legacy by immediately terminating Title 42 and choosing to stand by the side of justice for Black immigrants and alienating its administration from the historically anti-Black hardline stance on immigration. Not only does deporting migrants who are already in the U.S. go against President Biden’s campaign promises, but it also puts the U.S. in direct conflict with the 1951 U.N. Refugee Law as migrants are knowingly being returned to imminent harm.

The Title 42 policy categorically denies migrants the right to apply for asylum at the border. The policy is inherently anti-Black and cruel in closing the door at the misery, plight and torment of migrants tracking the treacherous journey in search of safety and relief.

Words By: Bethelhem T. Negash

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