Religious advocates applaud as court rules against policy that blocked asylum seekers

A federal court has overruled a policy that the U.S. has used to turn back hundreds of thousands of migrants from its southern border without allowing them to seek asylum.

The ruling in U.S. District Court drew praise from religious leaders. Among them were immigration advocates in the United Church of Christ, who have criticized expulsions under Title 42 since their start in 2020.

In his Nov. 15 opinion, U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan found the policy — which uses public health as a reason to expel asylum seekers — “arbitrary and capricious.” The Trump administration started the policy in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Biden administration has continued to use it but now must cease because of Sullivan’s ruling.

The ruling “spelled out what advocates have been saying all along,” said Katie Adams, a specialist in domestic issues with the UCC Office of Public Policy and Advocacy. She is also interim chair of the Interfaith Immigration Coalition. “There is no public health merit in the use of Title 42. Its use has led to grievous harm to those seeking asylum – which is a moral and legal right.”

EndTitle42Graphic2021
The UCC and its interfaith partners have been using images like those above and below to oppose Title 42 expulsions of migrants.

The Biden administration asked for a five-week delay before the order takes effect, and the judge granted it with “great reluctance.” In a Nov. 15 statement, the Department of Homeland Security said it would use the time between now and Dec. 21 “to prepare for an orderly transition to new policies at the border.”

‘The dignity they deserve’

If the expulsion policy was meant to reduce harm and vulnerability for migrants and border communities, it has actually “done much of the opposite,” said Irene Willis Hassan, the UCC’s minister for refugee and migration services. “Statistically, public health outcomes resulting from Title 42 demonstrate increased issues such as human trafficking and gang violence, rather than creating safer communities.”

Hassan and her Global H.O.P.E. teammates “celebrate vacating the misguided narrative of Title 42, and encourage policymakers to use this opportunity to envision a more just and humane asylum processing system,” she said.

ImmigrantsWelcomeStatueImage2021

“It is a moral outrage to see the ways this administration has continued the Trump legacy of rejecting asylum seekers through a false premise of public health and misuse of Title 42,” added the Rev. Noel Andersen, co-founder of the UCC National Collaborative on Immigration. He also serves as director of grassroots organizing for Church World Service. “Faith communities across the country have been working to welcome asylum seekers through direct service and legal assistance while continuing to speak out about the immoral usage of Title 42.

“This federal court ruling is a victory for asylum seekers and all those who are working to restore our asylum program’s integrity. We call upon this administration and Congress to uphold our tradition of welcome and to provide enhanced funding and infrastructure so that we welcome asylum seekers with the dignity they deserve.”

‘Compassionate welcome’

“Lamentations reminds us that the Lord’s mercies are new every morning; each day we have the chance to begin again,” Adams said. “What if we as a country were as committed to dreaming about what a compassionate and dignified welcome would look like as we’ve been to building up border walls and expelling migrants? It’s a new morning and the faith community stands ready to help rebuild our asylum program to provide a welcome to all who seek it.”


This article was updated on Nov. 17, 2022, adding information on the five-week delay between the judge’s order and the time the use of the Title 42 expulsion policy must cease.


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Categories: Refugee Emergency Updates United Church of Christ News

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