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Top Democratic lawmakers and immigrants’ rights advocates are ramping up pressure on President Joe Biden to end a pandemic-related policy that allows U.S. officials to expel asylum-seekers and other migrants swiftly at the border.
The practice has “defied common sense and common decency, ” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y) said during a press call Thursday. “I continue to be disappointed, deeply disappointed, in the administration’s response.”
Then-President Donald Trump invoked the public health authority, called Title 42, at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020. Biden officials have left it in place, to the dismay of immigrants’ rights advocates who say it’s inhumane and illegal.
Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) said he hasn’t talked with Biden directly about the matter but has pressed the Department of Homeland Security and the State Department. The Congressional Hispanic Caucus also has requested a White House meeting to discuss immigration policy, he said.
The House Homeland Security Committee’s border panel will hold a hearing on Title 42 in the coming weeks, Chair Nanette Barragán (D-Calif.) said during the call.
The policy drew increased attention after two federal courts last week issued competing rulings on its use. An appeals court in Washington, D.C., said the Biden administration couldn’t use Title 42 to expel migrant families to countries where they may face persecution. Hours later, a district court in Texas said the Biden administration can’t exempt unaccompanied children from expulsion.
The lawmakers and advocates from the American Civil Liberties Union, the Haitian Bridge Alliance, and other groups called on the Biden administration to appeal the Texas ruling and drop any defense of Title 42.
The ACLU would consider litigation if the Biden administration begins to carry out the district court’s directive to expel unaccompanied children, said Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the group’s Immigrants’ Rights Project.
“We know the U.S. can get this right — a fair, orderly, and welcoming asylum system,” Melina Roche, campaign manager for the asylum-rights organization Welcome With Dignity, said during the call.
Biden administration officials have defended the continued use of Title 42, saying it’s necessary to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in crowded processing and detention facilities at the border.
To contact the reporter on this story: Ellen M. Gilmer in Washington at email@example.com