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Democrats tell Biden to ditch ‘punitive’ immigration measures

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas
AP Photo/Mariam Zuhaib
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas speaks during a Senate Homeland Security Committee hearing on threats to the homeland on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Nov. 17, 2022.

A group of House Democrats are calling on the Biden administration to stop implementing “punitive and failed deterrence” immigration measures and instead recognize asylum as a human right.

In a Dec. 9 letter to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas led by Democratic Reps. Jesús García (Ill.), Lou Correa (Calif.) and Adriano Espaillat (N.Y.) – collectively known as the “three amigos” for their efforts to include immigration provisions in Biden’s legislative agenda – 21 Democrats warned against replacing the Title 42 policy with other repressive practices.

“We cannot continue to push U.S. asylum-processing obligations to other countries or expand the inherently flawed expedited removal process. It is imperative that we shift resources towards humane processing and away from punitive measures such as expedited removals, lateral repatriation flights, and immigration-related prosecutions,” wrote the lawmakers.

A court last month declared the Title 42 policy arbitrary and capricious, giving the Biden administration until Dec. 21 to end its implementation. The administration this week announced it was appealing that decision.

Title 42 is a Trump administration holdover that allows border officials to deny migrants at the border their right to apply for asylum under the guise of sanitary protections related to the pandemic.

“The end of Title 42 must not be followed by an expansion in the use of immigration detention which continues to unnecessarily traumatize those who have traveled thousands of miles to our country in search of safety and stability. The threat of expedited removal of asylum seekers because of this order is unconscionable,” wrote the Democrats.

Even with the presumptive end of Title 42 on deck, the Biden administration has vowed to find other ways to block migrants – in particular Venezuelans – from entering the country.

“We were deeply disappointed by an announcement made by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to expel Venezuelan asylum seekers to Mexico and are concerned over reports that DHS is seeking to deport refugees and asylum seekers because of the Title 42 order,” wrote the lawmakers.

The Democrats said that instead of finding deterrent measures to reduce the number of migrants at the border, the administration should offer protections to migrants impacted by Title 42, who are overwhelmingly people of color.

“As we move forward in meaningful immigration reform for asylum seekers, we urge [the Department of Homeland Security] to do so without: increasing immigration detention; exporting U.S. asylum processing abroad; or relying on punitive and failed deterrence programs,” they wrote.

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