Border policies and protection of the human rights of people in human mobility

Since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020 the United States has used a public health law located at Title 42 of the United States Code to target Black migrants and asylum seekers for summary expulsion and pushbacks across the US-Mexico border. The law, last invoked in the 1920s to bar entrance of ships where there was evidence of a meningitis outbreak, has now been manipulated to justify a ban on entry to asylum seekers under pretense that it promotes public health by permitting the suspension of the introduction of non-citizens where there is “the existence of any communicable disease in a foreign country” and “there is serious danger of the introduction of such disease into the United States.”

In reality, the Title 42 policy violates US immigration statutes that guarantee the right to seek asylum and the jus cogens obligations of non-refoulement by expelling non-citizens attempting to seek asylum to countries where they cannot be safely returned.

In addition to the extraordinary use of Title 42, standard US border processing laws also disproportionately target Black people for deportation and denial of humanitarian protection. The racially disparate, exclusionary impact of these US border policies has resulted in the forced return of Black migrants to deadly conditions. For example, Haitians are deported to a country plagued by gang violence, lack of food, water, fuel, and medical supplies, ineffective undemocratic leadership, and now a cholera epidemic. The deportation of persons with criminal records has reached a crisis point: Haiti has resumed its practice of detaining individuals with criminal records who have been returned in the Haitian National Penitentiary and other jails.

As a survivor of these cruel and inhumane policies, Daniel Tse’s migration story is emblematic of a system that operates to exclude and punish Black people seeking protection in the United States. Through our work with Black people at the border and in ICE detention centers across the US, Haitian Bridge Alliance, RFK Human Rights, and Cameroon Advocacy Network have witnessed these human rights abuses and the systemic, discriminatory effect of current US border policies.

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