Title 42 causes direct harm to children and families by undermining their rights to protection and exposing them to dangerous conditions.
Enacted in March 2020 at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Title 42 order has expelled children and families arriving at the southern U.S. border back to dangerous conditions in their countries of origin or Mexico without access to regular immigration processing, including asylum, or adequate health and protection screenings. After months of litigation that prolonged the implementation of the policy, a federal court halted the use of Title 42, set to take effect on December 21, 2022. However, days before the policy was set to expire the Supreme Court ruled to keep Title 42 in place indefinitely while further litigation is underway. As court rulings continue to push for the implementation of Title 42, there has also been legislative pushback out of concern about the government’s ability to process large numbers of asylum seekers at the border.
The reality is that the prolonged implementation of Title 42 will heighten the risks that children and families are fleeing in the first place and worsen humanitarian conditions at the U.S. – Mexico border. Since its implementation 287,000 children and families arriving at the southern U.S. border have been expelled under Title 42. This policy diminishes existing refugee laws by denying people the right to claim asylum in the safety of the U.S.
UNICEF has long held that it is possible to protect children’s right to protection and asylum, while also safeguarding public health and security. This must be reflected in all policy decisions affecting our border. The end of Title 42 presents an important opportunity to ensure that the reception system has safeguards in place to uphold children’s rights and ensure their well-being.
Despite litigation in the courts, Congress must support the end of Title 42 and ensure that asylum-seeking children and families can stay together and have access to safety, education, legal counsel, health and other essential services wherever they are.