Expulsion Policy Carve Outs Leave Advocates in the Dark About Implementation
PORTLAND, OREGON — Haitian Bridge Alliance and the Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon (APANO) filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request last night to demand that the government shed light on the inner workings of Title 42, a Trump-era policy that uses the pandemic as justification for automatically expelling nearly all immigrants seeking safety. The groups are represented by Justice Action Center, Innovation Law Lab, and Sugerman Law Office in their FOIA request.
The request was filed the night before a federal district court deemed the Title 42 process “likely unlawful,” blocking the Biden administration from implementing the process against families with minor children. While this case will continue to be litigated, the court makes clear what advocates have long known: Title 42 is a process shrouded in secrecy and mired in due process concerns.
Despite widespread condemnation of Title 42 by public health experts, civil rights advocates, and border communities, the Biden administration caused disappointment last month when it announced that Title 42 would remain in place for the foreseeable future.
Groups today are demanding that the government explain how it implements this policy and provide information about how decisions regarding exceptions to the policy are made. Their FOIA request seeks information on how different national origins, sexual orientations, family structures, and other demographic factors are treated.
“Title 42, like many of Trump’s cruel and draconian policies that dismantled our asylum process, must end immediately,” said Guerline Jozef, co-founder and e director of Haitian Bridge Alliance, an advocacy organization and direct service provider for Haitian and other Black asylum seeking communities. “We have witnessed for way too long the painful reality of the use of Title 42 as a trap to cage, expel, and deport some of the most vulnerable human beings to extreme danger, including pregnant women and newborn babies. As with any other detention or expulsion policy, we’ve seen Black immigrant community members experience disproportionate levels of suffering.
“Title 42 is worse than an expulsion policy for Haitians and other asylum seekers; it can be a death sentence. We want the government to end this policy immediately, and we want accountability for the human rights abuses committed as a result of this policy thus far,” she continued.
Today’s FOIA request comes after months of advocacy from a coalition of organizations demanding that the Biden administration end its use of punitive deterrence measures for asylum seekers and instead implement a system in which those seeking safety are treated with humanity and dignity.
“So-called ‘border’ policies have a tremendous impact on everyone, regardless of where we live,” said Duncan Hwang, Interim Co-Executive Director of APANO. “We are filing this action today to stand in solidarity with border communities and to send a clear message demanding transparency and accountability for all.”
“The government has operated in total secrecy when it comes to Title 42” said Daniel Tully, an attorney with Justice Action Center. “While that may not have been surprising under the previous administration, we demand better of President Biden, who campaigned on an immigration policy that treats people with kindness. We will not stop until we get the accountability we seek.”
“The families arriving at our border have fled untold horrors to seek safety in the United States. Title 42 denies them this lawful right, instead expelling them to places where they face extreme violence and persecution,” said Jordan Cunnings, Legal Director of Innovation Law Lab. “We demand accountability to help bring an end to this discriminatory and harmful policy, which has endangered countless lives.”
To read the Freedom of Information Act, click here for the request filed with the Department of Homeland Security, or click here for the request filed with the Department of Health and Human Services.
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Justice Action Center is a new nonprofit organization dedicated to fighting for greater justice for immigrant communities by combining litigation and storytelling. JAC is committed to bringing additional litigation resources to address unmet needs, empower clients, and change the corrosive narrative around immigrants in the U.S. Learn more at justiceactioncenter.org.
Innovation Law Lab, based in Portland, Oregon, with projects around the United States, is a nonprofit organization that harnesses technology, lawyers and organizers to advance immigrant and refugee justice. For more information, see www.innovationlawlab.org and follow us on social media: Innovation Law Lab on Facebook and @ThinkLawLab on Twitter.