Our Voices

World Refugee Day: Despite obstacles, RFK Human Rights, others continue fight to end Title 42

Last summer, when Guerline Jozef, co-founder and executive director of the Haitian Bridge Alliance received the 2021 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award, she seized the occasion to advocate for an end to Title 42, a Trump administration policy that allows U.S. border officials to expel refugees back to Mexico or their home countries without the opportunity to be screened for asylum eligibility.

“We wanted to bring this award to the people on both sides of the border to let them know this is for them. We hear them. We see them. We’ll continue to fight for them,” Jozef said at the award ceremony held at the Otay Mesa Detention Center in San Diego, California.

Under Title 42, thousands of Haitian refugees, including babies, pregnant women, and children have been forcefully deported. “The mass expulsions of Haitians and other Black asylum seekers and refugees violate the prohibition against non-refoulement—a principle of international and U.S. refugee law that prohibits any form of return where an individual’s safety or freedom remains at imminent risk,” said RFK Human Rights President Kerry Kennedy at the event. (The U.S. government has expelled migrants nearly 2 million times under Title 42).

In March, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights and the Haitian Bridge Alliance released a joint report detailing first-hand testimony of 43 Haitian and other survivors who were trapped by U.S. immigration officials in a makeshift encampment under the Del Rio International Bridge in Texas, subjected to violence, racial slurs and intimidation and denied sufficient access to food, water and medical care. The report included testimonies and information obtained through in-person and phone interviews with survivors and witnesses, detailing human rights abuses committed by DHS and others against Haitian immigrants seeking asylum in the Del Rio encampment.

Despite the fight to end Title 42, the order remains in place after a federal judge blocked the Biden administration’s plan to put an end to the policy on May 23. But activists and human rights organizations have continued to demand the termination of the restriction. Recently, ahead of this year’s Summit of the Americas and the commemoration of World Refugee Day, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights joined more than 100 civil society organizations to urge the Biden administration to “pursue an end to the Migration Protection Protocols (MPP) and Title 42–which deny asylum seekers access to protection and send them back to harm–by strenuously fighting court and legislative efforts to impede their termination.”

The U.N. Refugee Agency’s theme for this year’s World Refugee Day is, “Whoever. Wherever. Whenever. Everyone has the right to safety.” The theme reflects the spirit of Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which stipulates that “everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.”