Biden faces pressure over when to lift Covid travel bans

More than 107 organisations have urged Joe Biden to lift coronavirus border restrictions

Chantal Da Silva
Tuesday 06 July 2021 19:26
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<p>A US Border Patrol agent patrols on an all-terrain vehicle where the border wall ends in the Pacific Ocean along the US-Mexico border between San Diego and Tijuana, during a tour with the US Customs and Border Protection on May 10, 2021 at International Friendship Park in San Diego County, California.</p>

A US Border Patrol agent patrols on an all-terrain vehicle where the border wall ends in the Pacific Ocean along the US-Mexico border between San Diego and Tijuana, during a tour with the US Customs and Border Protection on May 10, 2021 at International Friendship Park in San Diego County, California.

President Joe Biden is facing pressure from all sides on when to lift Title 42, the public health travel ban invoked by former President Donald Trump at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

At the time, Mr Trump had cited the risk of coronavirus spreading to insist that the government needed to be able to block migrants and asylum seekers at the US border without hearing their claims.

According to Politico, the Biden administration is considering a phased lifting of the ban that would allow families to present themselves at the US border, with single adults potentially to follow later this summer.

For immigration advocates, the lifting of Title 42 is long overdue, particularly with Mr Biden having promised to roll back the hardline immigration policies introduced under his predecessor.

Just days ago, more than 100 groups wrote to the Biden administration urging the government to end the controversial rule.

“Not only does the Title 42 policy violate US refugee law and treaties, but it also endangers people seeking US protection,” the letter signed by 105 organisations, including Human Rights Watch, states.

Noting that as of 17 June, Human Rights Watch had tracked 3,250 reported cases of kidnappings and other attacks, including rape, violent armed assaults and human trafficking against migrants and asylum seekers expelled or blocked from entering the US border since Mr Biden took office in January, the letter warns: “This number rises every day your administration fails to end this policy”.

“We urge your administration to fully rescind this policy for all populations, comply with US refugee law, and ensure that Black, LGBTQ and other adult asylum seekers, many of whom have been turned back or expelled at ports of entry, as well as families and children, have swift access to the US asylum system,” it states.

While immigration and human rights advocates have urged Mr Biden to lift Title 42, the president also faces pressure to keep the border restrictions in place, with GOP members warning against phasing out the rule.

Republican National Committee (RNC) spokesperson Emma Vaughn told Politico she views the potential lifting of the border rule as “dangerous”, despite the easing of coronavirus restrictions across the US.

Focusing on a recent rise in arrivals of asylum seekers and migrants at the US border, the RNC spokesperson said: “As Republicans at the local, state, and federal level are stepping up to lead our nation through this growing crisis, Americans are taking note – voters across the country have rejected Biden’s failed leadership at the border”.

In a recent Washington Post/ABC News poll, only 33 per cent of voters said they felt Mr Biden’s immigration policies have been successful, with 90 per cent of Republicans expressing disapproval compared with 63 per cent of Democrats.

Still, as Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, told Politico, Title 42 was invoked under the justification of preventing the spread of Covid-19, rather than to address migration flows.

“If the Biden administration believes there’s another rationale for denying asylum seekers the right to a hearing, then they need to invoke that,” he said. “But they cannot use Title 42 as a pretext to regulate migration flows.”

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