Stop Illegal Border Expulsions
Migrant families on the southern border are being expelled every day without due process.
Ever since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a sweeping order in March to effectively close off the southern border to incoming migrants, U.S. immigration authorities have been apprehending tens of thousands on a monthly basis and expelling them without granting them so much as an interview or a hearing.
The reasoning behind the order, according to the CDC, was to “protect the public health from an increase in the serious danger of the introduction of COVID-19 into the interior of the country.” But the agency could hardly keep up the pretense. Its own doctors came out against the rule, claiming there was no evidence such indiscriminate expulsions would slow down the spread of the virus.
Like most actions the Trump administration carried out during the pandemic, the order seemed to come from purely political motives rather than genuine public health concerns. Vice President Mike Pence reportedly called CDC Director Robert Redfield in March and urged him to take advantage of the agency’s unprecedented legal powers that came with COVID-19.
Even compared with America’s already hostile immigration removal proceedings during normal times, this new mechanism of expulsions still stands alone in the amount of damage it is causing to people’s lives.
According to records from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, more than 320,000 migrants have been turned away since March, including thousands of children who crossed the border by themselves. Many of them were running from life-threatening violence in their home countries. Without a proper channel to apply for asylum, they were left helpless in the face of sexual violence, torture and death.
What’s more, most Mexican border towns are not equipped to deal with such an enormous influx of expelled migrants. Experts said that cities like Tijuana do not have enough shelters and supplies to accommodate these migrants, and poor living conditions could further exacerbate the COVID-19 outbreak in the region.
The CDC claimed the rule was necessary to protect the health of Border Patrol officers. But what about the life and safety of these men, women and children who tried to escape dire circumstances at home, only to be put in another precarious situation?
Newborn U.S. citizens were turned away with their migrant mothers; rejected asylum-seekers were harassed and extorted by Mexican officials while stranded in Tijuana; prominent activists were returned to their home countries where they would likely face prosecution –– all in the name of public safety!
On top of being a humanitarian disgrace, the CDC order is also straight-up illegal. Guidance by the United Nations Refugee Agency specifies that “blanket measures precluding the admission of refugees or asylum-seekers” constitute a breach of international law. According to a report by Human Rights First, the order also violates U.S. asylum laws, anti-trafficking laws, due process protections, as well as treaty obligations.
In Dec. 2018, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down a similar attempt by the Trump administration to deny asylum claims to all unauthorized non-citizens crossing the border. Last November, a federal judge put out a preliminary injunction, urging immigration authorities to stop using the CDC order to expel unaccompanied children.
There seems to be little debate about the illegality of the CDC order. What remains wanting is the political will to go against the nation’s prevalent anti-immigrant sentiments and treat migrants as human beings whose lives are worth fighting for.