Catholic groups laud end of health measure affecting migrants

By Rhina Guidos | Catholic News Service
Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Migrants expelled from the U.S. and sent back to Mexico under Title 42 walk toward Mexico at the Paso del Norte International border bridge in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, April 1, 2022. (CNS photo/Jose Luis Gonzalez, Reuters)

WASHINGTON — Catholic groups welcomed an announcement by the Biden administration confirming the May 23 end of a public health measure put in place at the start of the coronavirus pandemic that has kept asylum-seekers out.

The Catholic Legal Immigration Network Inc., known as CLINIC, said in an April 1 statement that ending Title 42 of the Public Health Safety Act is a “crucial first step toward rebuilding an equitable and welcoming asylum system that protects the safety and dignity of all migrants.”

The Trump administration began enforcing Title 42 in March 2020 as infections of the coronavirus began to surge in the U.S.

Under the provision, Border Patrol agents were instructed to expel anyone caught trying to illegally enter the U.S. instead of processing them under existing immigration law for those seeking asylum.

On its website, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection had said the provision was to prohibit “the entry of certain persons who potentially pose a health risk, either by virtue of being subject to previously announced travel restrictions or because they unlawfully entered the country to bypass health screening measures.”

While the Biden administration took a lot of criticism for not ending the Trump-era measure, officials said Title 42 would be lifted when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention deemed it was safe to do so.

“We are relieved to hear that the Biden administration finally plans to end Title 42 expulsions,” said Susan Gunn, director of the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns. “We pray this decision is part of a larger effort to restore the asylum system to allow fair processing of migrants and asylum-seekers.”

In El Paso, Texas, Dylan Corbett, executive director of the Hope Border Institute, said border communities welcomed the demise of Title 42 and organizations want to work with the administration to “safely and humanely receive those seeking asylum.”

“This is a moment not only to begin to rebuild,” he said, “but to dream of a future where all those in need of protection are welcomed and protected with dignity and compassion.”

Some said keeping the measure in place, even after Trump’s presidency ended, had caused damage and fraction and they were disappointed with the Biden administration for not ending it sooner.

“America’s welcome mat is quite tattered and stained following the anti-immigration efforts of the last five years,” said Fran Eskin-Royer, executive director of the National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, adding that her organization, “had hoped that America would put out a fresh, clean welcome mat with President (Joe) Biden’s arrival in the White House.”

On April 1, the CDC said on its website that “after considering current public health conditions and an increased availability of tools to fight COVID-19 — such as highly effective vaccines and therapeutics — the CDC director has determined that an order suspending the right to introduce migrants into the United States is no longer necessary.”

But many faith-based groups said they believed the measure had little to do with health.

“We will not forget the lives lost and those harmed by this illegal and racist policy,” said Lisa Parisio, CLINIC’s director of advocacy. “Now we call on the Biden administration to work quickly to ensure proper implementation of this decision and to go further and build an asylum system that welcomes with dignity all who are fleeing for their lives.

“CLINIC will continue to stand by asylum-seekers and our partners to hold the Biden administration accountable to its promises and reject the politicization of human life.”