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Immigration advocates decry judge’s ruling on Title 42

Monday was supposed to mark the end of Title 42, a controversial Trump-era policy that limits asylum. But a federal judge in Louisiana blocked the Biden administration from terminating that policy. KPBS border reporter Gustavo Solis spoke with lawyers and activists about that decision.

Beginning in April, after the Biden administration announced plans to terminate the controversial Trump-era immigration policy known as Title 42, immigration attorney Lindsay Toczylowski spent weeks telling migrants that they would finally get a fair shot at asylum.

“We had been telling them that May 23 was the day when hope was on the horizon,” Toczylowski said. “It was the day that the racist and xenophobic Title 42 policy was set to be lifted.”

But instead the day dawned with another unfulfilled Biden promise on immigration policy. A federal judge in Louisiana appointed by former President Donald Trump blocked Biden’s order.

Ruling in a case brought by Texas and Arizona, the judge said the administration failed to go through the required notice and comment process before terminating the policy.

Trump enacted Title 42 during the early days of the pandemic under the guise of public health. It allows border officials to turn away asylum seekers without a court hearing. It’s been used nearly 2 million times.

As a result, many migrants have been stuck in Mexican border towns where they end up being robbed, beaten, raped or kidnapped, according to Toczylowski and other advocates.

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Matthew Bowler
Guerline Jozef from the Haitian Bridge Alliance spoke out against Title 42 along the San Diego Tijuana border calling it cruel and inhumane, May 23, 2022.

Monika Langarica, an attorney at the UCLA Center for Immigration Law and Policy, argued in court that it was unjust for two states to dictate federal immigration policy.

“Our argument is simple,” Langarica said. “Why should Arizona and Texas and other hostile anti-immigration states get to dictate national immigration policy for the entire border and the entire country?”

Langarica said the judge’s decision will almost certainly result in more violence.

“That order will endanger thousands of lives of people who just want to seek asylum and protection for themselves and their families,” she said.

Haitian nationals continue to be among the most impacted by Title 42, advocates say. Over the weekend, the Biden administration used Title 42 to deport hundreds of Haitians from El Paso.

Haitians face racism and discrimination in Mexico because of their black skin and accents, according to Guerline Jozef, executive director of the Haitian Bridge Alliance.

“Title 42, the cruel and inhumane treatment of migrants is not lost on the Haitian population and Haitian community,” she said. “We are used to being treated as less than.”

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Matthew Bowler
Monika Langarica from the Center for Immigration Law and Policy at UCLA spoke out against Title 42 in San Ysidro asking "why should Arizona and Texas and other hostile anti-immigrant states get to dictate national immigration policy for the entire border and the entire country?”, May 23, 2022

Jozef said it has been particularly painful to see the difference in how U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CPB) treated Ukrainians fleeing from Russia’s invasion.

Since the war began in late February, CBP processed as many as 1,000 Ukrainians in the U.S. each day. On average, Ukrainian nationals waited less than 12 hours in Mexico before being allowed to cross the border.

In contrast, Jozef said the Haitian Bridge Alliance is currently planning two funerals for Haitian migrants killed recently in Tijuana.

“What is the difference,” she asked while holding back tears. “Is it because we are not white, because our hair is not blonde, because our eyes are not blue? Is that why we must continue to suffer at the U.S.-Mexico border?”

In a statement Friday, the Biden administration said it planned to appeal the Louisiana judge’s decision.