Protect Vulnerable Asylum-Seeking Children and Families

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Title 42 causes direct harm to children and families by undermining their rights to protection and exposing them to dangerous conditions. UNICEF USA welcomes the U.S. government’s recent announcement to end the policy and resume asylum processing for children and families in need of protection.

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 more than two years in effect and over 1.7 million expulsions, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was set to terminate Title 42 on May 23, 2022. However, efforts to lift Title 42 by its due date were blocked by a federal judge from Louisiana. As some courts 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. In 2021, more than 128,000 individual asylum seekers in family units were returned to either their countries of origin or Northern Mexico under this policy. 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.

In preparation for the lifting of Title 42, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has published a fact sheet outlining their strategy and plans for a potential increase in migration.  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.   

Please let Congress know: to protect children, it is imperative that they support the termination of the Title 42 policy to protect the rights of all children and families seeking asylum. 


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