NEW YORK, NY (AUGUST 4, 2021) – Following Monday’s announcement from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to extend the Title 42 public health order, UNICEF USA remains concerned about the safety and wellbeing of asylum-seeking children and families. This decision places grave dangers for children and families fleeing violence, poverty, food insecurity and climate-driven disasters, denying them access to asylum, protection and treatment needed to ensure their safety, dignity and well-being. Protecting children’s rights and access to asylum can and must be done while safeguarding U.S. public health and security.
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 northern Central America and Mexico without access to regular immigration processing, including asylum, or adequate health and protection screenings. Though the provision was amended in November 2020 to exempt unaccompanied children, families with children continued to be expelled, and in some cases, the amendment has led to family separations. Under the policy, Customs and Border Protection officials have turned away nearly 16,000 unaccompanied children and more than 84,000 family units, resulting in dire humanitarian consequences in northern Mexico and putting families and children in great danger.
UNICEF USA believes all children have a right to survive and thrive, regardless of their migration status. A child is a child. “Children and families denied the opportunity to apply for asylum face difficult humanitarian conditions in Mexico, putting their health and protection at risk. Their rights do not stop at our borders because of a global pandemic,” said Michael J. Nyenhuis, President and CEO of UNICEF USA.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact vulnerable communities around the world, we urge the Government to ensure the rights of migrant and asylum-seeking children and families are upheld. Public health experts and UN agencies have long contended that protecting public health and protecting asylum can be fully compatible, and policy decisions affecting our border must reflect that. We remain committed to working with the Government to ensure that the best interests of all children are protected, at our southern border, in communities that welcome migrant children and in addressing root causes for migration in Northern Central America.
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The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) works in more than 190 countries and territories to pursue a more equitable world for every child. UNICEF has helped save more children’s lives than any other humanitarian organization, by providing health care and immunizations, safe water and sanitation, nutrition, education, emergency relief and more.
UNICEF USA advances the global mission of UNICEF by rallying the American public to support the world’s most vulnerable children. Together, we are working toward a world that upholds the rights of all children and helps every child thrive. For more information, visit www.unicefusa.org.
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Erica Vogel, UNICEF USA, 212.922.2480, email@example.com
Gabby Arias, UNICEF USA, 917.720.1306, firstname.lastname@example.org