The Biden administration’s approach to the border and immigration has been heavily criticized. With Trump-era policies still in place, some advocates object to the way the rules are being enforced right now, specifically a provision known as Title 42.
Geoffrey Hoffman is a clinical professor and director of the immigration clinic at the University of Houston Law Center. Hoffman told Texas Standard that Title 42 authorizes the surgeon general to suspend immigration into the United States on public health grounds. It has been on the books since the 1940s, and though Title 42 has been evoked several times, its use increased significantly during the Trump administration.
“Back in March of 2020, the Trump administration used Title 42 to curtail, basically, entry of almost everyone from the Mexican border coming in to try to seek asylum,” Hoffman said. “And so that was a very, very big impact on those people.”
Hoffman says 600,000 people have been expelled from the country under Title 42.
Immigration advocates say Title 42 is being used as an “end run” around laws allowing asylum-seekers to enter the United States and pursue their claims.
“The issue is really that it’s being used at the land border in Mexico and Canada, and not through other entries. So it’s been seen as being discriminatory, and a racial-justice issue,” Hoffman said.
The Biden administration has continued to use Title 42, carving out an exception for unaccompanied minors who are being allowed into the country to pursue asylum claims. Some immigration advocates say applying Title 42 differently to different populations should be ended.
“You have Title 42 being used, according to immigration advocates, as a pretext,” Hoffman said. “It’s a pretext to prevent people who are otherwise legitimately seeking asylum, preventing them from seeking that relief.”
Hoffman says the United States has an obligation under the nation’s own laws, and under international law, to provide a means by which asylum-seekers can make their claims. Forcing migrants out of the country without a hearing, under Title 42, violates those laws, he says.