By May 23, the Biden Administration is said to scrap Title 42, a controversial Trump-era policy that expels asylum seekers in the United States based on the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
For context, on March 11, the same day President Biden announced an end to Title 42, the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol instructed authorities to consider admitting Ukrainian refugees despite the exemption policy.
Since March of 2020, Title 42 has expelled over 1.7 million migrants from Mexico, Haiti, Brazil and other Central American countries. And just last month, CBP flew their 211th expulsion flight of Haitian asylum seekers back to Haiti while also issuing a press release welcoming Ukrainian refugees with open arms.
Moreover, according to data by CBP, the United States has already processed over 10,000 Ukranian asylum applications since the Russia invasion on February 24.
The policy decision change raises the question, besides race, what is the key difference between Ukrainian migrants and Haitian, Latinx, and Central American migrants when both are escaping political unrest, war, and natural disasters in their home countries?
The Signal spoke to Allen Morris, the senior policy and government affairs strategist at the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, about the racism, hypocrisy and Title 42’s lasting impressions on the broken immigration system.
“If it’s white, it’s right. If Title 42 is such a big issue and you’re so worried why aren’t the detention centers vaccinating people properly,” Morris said. “Why aren’t they offering boosters? Why aren’t they giving them vaccination records to show when they got vaccinated? If you’re so worried about COVID why aren’t you implementing processes that are going to help it.”
In September 2021, the Signal reported on Haitian migrants in South Texas who slept under the Del Rio International Bridge waiting to make their case for asylum. At the time, the Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas cited Title 42 and public health concerns for expelling migrants two months after the country’s president was assassinated.
The most memorable image from the week-long media coverage was the CBP workers on horseback using larit, or whips, to intimidate migrants crossing the Rio Grande river.
The non-profit organization Houston Haitians United said migrants were either already vaccinated or ready and willing to get vaccinated if that meant staying in the U.S.
“When you see people that are being expelled all because of a rhetoric that having more migrants is going to increase COVID-19, but in reality all you are saying is Black people are bringing it here,” Morris said. “I’ve been working in immigration for over 10 years and I have never seen such a heinous policy that is clearly meant to objectify immigrants at their most vulnerable time.”
Equally important, in July, three months before the influx of Haitian migrants in Del Rio, the Biden administration released this statement: “The United States offers condolences to the people of Haiti, and we stand ready to assist as we continue to work for a safe and secure Haiti.”
In terms of Texas politics, Republicans across the state continue to cite “open border policies” for their dehumanization of migrants at the southern border. In addition to Gov. Greg Abbott’s failed “Operation Lone Star,” border counties like Kinney County have approved militant policies which deputize private citizens to police migrants.
“We have been seeing a strengthening occurence of not just Operation Lone Star, but even 287(g) contracts where sheriff’s departments and police departments regardless of how someone looks will reach out to ICE and say come get them,” Morris said. “It means we don’t want immigrants clearly. All you have to think about is someone saying go back to where you came from and that is exactly what Operation Lone Star is.”
Earlier this month, Abbott also announced a plan to bus migrants from Texas to Washington, D.C. In his announcement, Abbott failed to mention the bus rides are on a voluntary basis with Texas resources funding the operation.
Nevertheless, Morris said Texas and the United States have a long road ahead to proper immigration advocacy and humanizing minority migrants.
“You have a lot of conspiracy theorists, you have a lot of people watching Qanon posts, you have a lot of people that believe the rhetoric of 45 [Trump] and what he said about immigrants and how things should process when it comes down to immigration,” Morris said. “And you have a lot of white people that still have not come to the forefront of understanding that your ancestors stole this country. It was founded on the principles of stolen land.”
The Signal reached out to CBP for comment, but have yet to hear back.
Original photo: Amyyfory / Wikimedia Commons
Kennedy is a recent graduate of the University of St.Thomas in Houston where she served as Editor-in-Chief of the Celt Independent. Kennedy brings her experience of writing about social justice issues to the Texas Signal where she serves as our Political Reporter. She does everything from covering crime beats, Texas politics, and community activism. Kennedy is a passionate reporter, avid reader, coffee enthusiast, and loves to travel.