May 20, 2021 - Politics & Policy

UN commissioner for refugees: U.S. must end COVID asylum restrictions

Photo of an open vehicle door that says "Border Patrol" and a group of migrants walking toward it

A group of Venezuelan immigrants is taken into U.S. Border Patrol custody in Del Rio, Texas. They had crossed the Rio Grande minutes earlier from Mexico to seek political asylum in the United States. Photo: John Moore via Getty Images

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi on Thursday urged the U.S. to "swiftly" lift COVID-related asylum restrictions at the border.

Why it matters: The order, enacted by former President Trump last March, effectively ended asylum at the southern border. The American Civil Liberties Union and other migrant advocacy groups have called on Biden to roll back the policy.

What he's saying: "The Title 42 order has resulted in the expulsions of hundreds of thousands of people to Mexico or their countries of origin, denying their access to asylum procedures," Grandi said in a statement.

  • The UN Refugee Agency has "maintained since the start of the pandemic that protecting public health and protecting access to asylum, a fundamental human right, are fully compatible."
  • "Guaranteed access to safe territory and the prohibition of pushbacks of asylum-seekers are core precepts of the 1951 Refugee Convention and refugee law, which governments are required to uphold to protect the rights and lives of refugees," he said, noting that the expulsions have led to "serious humanitarian consequences" in northern Mexico.

The big picture: Challenges have emerged at the U.S.-Mexico border in Biden's first 100 days in office. Though the administration is starting to reunite families and open more temporary shelters, he continues to face backlash for retaining Title 42.

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