Letter Urging President Biden to End the Misuse of Title 42 Public Health Authority at the Border

Hon. Joseph R. Biden, Jr.

President of the United States

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, DC 20500

Dear President Biden:

We write to urge your administration to immediately end the misuse of Title 42 public health authority to illegally and inhumanely expel asylum seekers and migrants at the border. As faith-based, legal services, humanitarian and human rights organizations that assist and advocate for asylum seekers and immigrant children, we are gravely concerned about the families, children, and adults seeking U.S. humanitarian protections at the U.S.-Mexico border. 

Since March 2020, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has blocked and turned away people at the southern border, including asylum seekers and children, without access to the U.S. asylum system or preliminary protection screenings, sending them to persecution, torture and other serious danger in violation of U.S. refugee and anti-trafficking laws and treaty obligations. The Trump administration, for instance, expelled prominent Nicaraguan dissidents who had attempted to seek asylum in the United States, returning them to Nicaragua where authorities had detained and beaten them for their political activism. Your administration continues to block and expel people, including families with children, under the same policy.  

These expulsions are being carried out under orders that Trump Administration officials pressured the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to issue despite objections by senior CDC medical experts. Last week, public health and medical experts at leading public health schools, medical schools, hospitals and other institutions issued a new letter calling on the CDC to rescind the current order, which the experts concluded has “no scientific basis as a public health measure,” and to adopt rational, science-based measures to safeguard public health while processing asylum seekers and children at the border during the COVID-19 pandemic. Leading public health experts have repeatedly called on the Trump administration to end these specious bans and expulsions, explaining that public health measures can protect both public health and the lives of people seeking asylum. 

On January 29, 2021, a federal appeals court stayed a ruling that had enjoined the summary expulsion of unaccompanied children. It is now all the more urgent for your administration to immediately end the use of the CDC order to block and expel people – children and adults – seeking U.S. humanitarian protections. U.S. legal experts, including a former DHS official, have condemned this “shadow immigration expulsion regime,” characterizing it as “medical gerrymandering . . . crafted to override critical legal rights and safeguards.” International legal scholars have further explained that “COVID-19 does not grant States carte blanche to trample on well-established principles of international refugee law.” Members of Congress have repeatedly called for an end to the expulsions policy.

Even while DHS was enjoined from expelling unaccompanied children – in a ruling that found that U.S. public health laws likely do not authorize DHS to carry out such expulsions – the Trump administration continued to expel asylum-seeking families and adults to persecution and torture in the countries they fled and to turnback asylum seekers to extremely dangerous border regions in Mexico, including many African asylum seekers who have faced violence and discrimination there.

The U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR) explained in its March 2020 legal guidance on the COVID-19 response that state entry measures should not prevent people from seeking asylum from persecution and that states may not deny entry to people at risk of refoulement. In November 2020, the UNHCR Assistant High Commissioner for Protection warned that “measures restricting access to asylum must not be allowed to become entrenched under the guise of public health.” Just last week, UNHCR condemned expulsions of refugees and asylum seekers at borders in a statement focused on pushbacks from Europe, explaining that “[t]he right to seek asylum is a fundamental human right. The COVID-19 pandemic provides no exception.”

During the presidential campaign, you committed to end inhumane Trump administration border policies, uphold U.S. laws and treaty obligations to protect refugees and immigrant children, and adopt COVID-19 measures based in science. For your actions to reflect those promises, your administration must end the misuse of Title 42 public health authority at the border, stop blocking and expelling people seeking U.S. humanitarian protections, ensure appropriate infrastructure and support for shelters and other border groups to assist asylum seekers, and allow these families, children and adults to pursue their requests while in safety, inside the United States.


Advocating Opportunity

African American Ministers In Action

African Communities Together

Ajo Samaritans

Al Otro Lado

Aldea – The People’s Justice Center

Alianza Americas

America’s Voice

American Friends Service Committee

Angry Tias and Abuelas

Anti-Defamation League

Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project (ASAP)


Bellevue Program for Survivors of Torture

Bend the Arc Jewish Action

Bethany Christian Services

Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI)

Border Kindness 

Bridges Faith Initiative

Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights (CAIR) Coalition

Center for Gender & Refugee Studies

Center for Justice and International Law – CEJIL

Center for Victims of Torture

Central American Resource Center

Central Washington Justice For Our Neighbors

Children’s Defense Fund of Texas

Christian Reformed Church Office of Social Justice

Church World Service

Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA)

Colorado Asylum Center 

Columbia Law School Immigrants’ Rights Clinic

Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES)

Community Change Action

Congregation Action Network

Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd, U.S. Provinces

Detention Watch Network

Disciples Refugee & Immigration Ministries

Don’t Separate Families

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM)

Faith in Public Life

First Focus on Children

Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project

Franciscan Action Network

Freedom for Immigrants

Freedom Network USA


Hope Border Institute

Human Rights First

Immigration & Human Rights Clinic, University of the District of Columbia School of Law

Immigration Equality

International Refugee Assistance Project

International Rescue Committee

International Tribunal of Conscience of Peoples in Movement

Jesuit Refugee Service/USA

Justice Action Center

Justice For Our Neighbors – North Central Texas

Kids in Need of Defense (KIND)

La Unión del Pueblo Entero (LUPE)

Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center

Latin America Working Group (LAWG)

Lawyers for Good Government (L4GG)

Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns

Mississippi Center for Justice

National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd

National Immigrant Justice Center

National Immigration Law Center

National Immigration Project (NIPNLG)

National Network for Immigrant & Refugee Rights

NETWORK Lobby For Catholic Social Justice

Northern Illinois Justice for Our Neighbors

Office of Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation, Society of the Sacred Heart USC

Oxfam America

Pax Christi New Jersey

Refugees International

Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network

Santa Fe Dreamers Project

Save the Children Action Network

Service Employees International Union (SEIU)

Services, Immigrant Rights & Education Network (SIREN)

Sisters of Mercy of the Americas Justice Team

South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT)

South West Asylum & Migration Institute (SAMI)

Southern Poverty Law Center

T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights

Unitarian Universalist Service Committee

Union for Reform Judaism

United Stateless

United We Dream

U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants

Washington Office on Latin America

Wind of the Spirit Immigrant Resource Center

Witness at the Border

Women’s Refugee Commission

Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights



David Pekoske

Acting Secretary

U.S. Department of Homeland Security

301 7th Street, SW

Washington, DC 20528

Hon. Antony Blinken


U.S. Department of State

2201 C St., NW

Washington, DC 20520