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February 14, 2022

Pressley, Chu, Velázquez, Democrats Demand Answers from CDC on Use of Title 42 Expulsions for Asylum Seekers

Text to Letter (PDF)

WASHINGTON – Today, in response to the continued use of Title 42 to expel asylum seekers at the border, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), alongside Representatives Judy Chu (CA-27) and Nydia Velázquez (NY-07), led 33 other House Democrats on a letter to Rochelle Walensky, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, demanding answers about the agency’s justification for treating asylum seekers as a unique public health threat, how these expulsions are being coordinated, how asylum seekers being returned to dangerous situations are being cared for, and more. The letter’s co-leads also issued the following statements alongside the letter:

“The Administration’s decision to continue the cruel and xenophobic Title 42 policy—which has no basis in public health and was weaponized under Donald Trump—has exacerbated the hurt and harm felt by our immigrant neighbors, particularly Haitian and other Black migrants seeking the fundamental human right of asylum,” said Rep. Pressley. “The Biden Administration has a moral obligation to lead with compassion and support those fleeing from humanitarian crises in Haiti and beyond, and that starts with repealing Title 42.”

“Despite rolling back many of our restrictions related to the coronavirus, asylum seekers at our southern border are still being treated as unique public health threats, subjected to immediate expulsion even though they have a legal right to have their asylum claims heard,” said Rep. Chu. “This is not only wrong for denying these people their day in court, but public health experts do not even believe this is necessary. Instead, the continued use of this policy has been directly responsible for sending thousands of immigrants back to situations where they faced assault, rape, and even murder. In addition to creating new risks for some of the most vulnerable people in the world – refugees fleeing dangerous situations – this policy also contributes to the ongoing atmosphere of xenophobia and anti-immigrant violence we are seeing by painting those crossing the border as uniquely dangerous compared to other travelers. Instead of furthering a narrative that we have anything to fear from those crossing our border, and using that to subject asylum seekers to dangerous conditions, we should be prioritizing the health and safety of those seeking asylum here. This letter is meant to ensure our government is living up to our values and our laws, not living up to the last administration’s weaponized fear of immigrants.”

“As we have moved past the Trump years, it is unacceptable and un-American that DHS continues to enforce a policy that unlawfully restricts the legal and human right to seek asylum at the US-Mexico border,” said Rep. Velázquez. “That is why I’m joining my colleagues in asking for the immediate stop of Title 42 expulsions along the US-Mexico border. This is an imperative step towards a more just and humane immigration policy and there is no time to waste as families continue to needlessly suffer just for a shot at the American dream.” 

The letter was signed by: Representatives Jamaal Bowman, Ed.D., Joaquin Castro, Madeleine Dean, Diana DeGette, Nanette Diaz Barragán, Adriano Espaillat, Jesús G. “Chuy” García, Sylvia Garcia, Raúl Grijalva, , Jimmy Gomez, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Pramila Jayapal, Ann Kirkpatrick, Barbara Lee, Ted W. Lieu, Alan Lowenthal, Betty McCollum, Grace Meng, James P. McGovern, Grace Napolitano, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Chellie Pingree, Mark Pocan, Jamie Raskin, Lucille Roybal-Allard, Linda T. Sánchez, Jan Schakowsky, Rashida Tlaib, Ritchie Torres, Juan Vargas, Bonnie Watson Coleman, and Frederica S. Wilson.

Rep. Pressley, a founding member of the House Haiti Caucus, has been an outspoken critic of the Title 42 policy, which has been weaponized to deny migrants—including Haitian and other Black migrants—their legal right to claim asylum in the United States.

Rep. Pressley has consistently called on the Department of Homeland Security to end the practice of expelling migrants under Title 42 and to employ alternative forms of humanitarian relief for detainees subject to deportation for the remainder of the pandemic.

In September, Rep. Pressley and Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (NY-07) led 54 of their colleagues on a letter calling on the Biden Administration to immediately halt deportations to Haiti and provide humanitarian parole protections for those seeking asylum. The lawmakers’ letter followed the Administration’s resumption of deportation flights to Haiti as thousands of Haitian migrants continue to await an opportunity to make an asylum claim at the border. 

Rep. Pressley joined her colleagues on the House Oversight Committee in demanding answers regarding the inhumane treatment of migrants in Del Rio, Texas, by Border Patrol agents on horseback and pushing to Biden Administration to end the ongoing use and weaponization of Title 42.

Massachusetts is home to the third largest Haitian diaspora community in the country, with approximately 46,000 Haitians and Haitian-Americans living across the state and over half in the Boston metropolitan area. Additionally, Massachusetts is home to more than 4,700 Haitians with Temporary Protected Status.