The Honorable Alejandro N. Mayorkas
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Washington, D.C. 20528
October 14, 2022
Dear Secretary Mayorkas:
We, the undersigned organizations committed to the rights of asylum seekers and refugees, write to express our deep disappointment and shock at the announcement that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is expanding the use of Title 42 to expel Venezuelans seeking refuge at the U.S.-Mexico border. While we welcome steps to provide safe processing for some Venezuelans, the creation of safe pathways should never be wielded to deny other people seeking protection access to asylum. We are also troubled that the announcement refers to attempted entry at the southern border by Venezuelans as “illegal.” Seeking asylum is legal under both U.S. and international law.
Access to the U.S. asylum process must not hinge on an individual’s nationality, pre-existing ties to the country, financial means, or manner of entry. Title 42 expulsions violate U.S. and international law, have no basis as a public health measure, and return people seeking asylum to grave human rights abuses. Evading actual refugee law, the Title 42 policy facilitates discriminatory denials of access to asylum based on nationality and race and has long inflicted grave and disparate harms on Haitian and other Black asylum seekers. While litigation has forced the continuation of the Title 42 policy, this administration bears sole responsibility for expanding the policy and negotiating with Mexico to increase turn-backs. Inevitably, this will push many asylum seekers to dangerous crossings away from official border posts and leave them even more vulnerable to human trafficking. Utilizing punitive and unlawful measures such as Title 42 to attempt to deter future migration is not only unlawful but also goes against the rights-respecting commitments made by the United States and 20 other countries in the hemisphere who signed the Los Angeles Declaration on Migration and Protection earlier this year. Sacrificing the protection of people seeking refuge will not appease those spreading anti-immigrant rhetoric, but it will undermine the protection of refugees globally with far-reaching and long-term dire consequences.
Instead of coupling the parole program to Title 42, 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. The Biden administration should also redouble efforts to rebuild and strengthen the pace and capacity of the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program to process more refugees from Venezuela and other countries.
We welcome steps to create more safe pathways for individuals to access the U.S. asylum system and stand ready to work with your department in this important work.
See signatories here.