Harold Koh, a top legal advisor at the State Department, resigned after the Biden administration’s use of Title 42 to expel hundreds of thousands of migrants, calling it “inhumane” and “illegal.”
In an internal memo, Koh criticized the Biden administration’s use of the Title 42 and was displeased with the administration’s use of the policy, especially considering he “strongly supports” the administration.
Title 42 and Public Health
Title 42 is a public health policy that gives authority to the U.S. to expel migrants from the border during a public health crisis or emergency. The policy allows the U.S. to expel migrants without allowing them to apply for asylum. Critics argue the policy is a clear violation of U.S. and international laws.
The White House defends’ its use of Title 42, stating, “Title 42 is a public health authority, not an immigration one, and that the authority rests with the [Center for Disease Control and Prevention].” They also stated that the use of Title 42 is necessary “due to the risks of transmission and spread of COVID-19” in closed settings.
The CDC also affirmed the White House’s decision to continue to use Title 42.
Previously, Former President Donald Trump invoked Title 42 to deport migrants on the U.S.-Mexico border, which some have called an excuse for the administration to implement restrictive immigration policies.
According to Koh’s memo, which cited U.S. government data, the U.S. has use expelled nearly 700,000 since February 2021.
In the memo, which was first reported in Politico, he stated the following: “I believe the administration’s current implementation of the Title 42 authority continues to violate our legal obligations not to expel or return… individuals who fear persecution, death, or torture, especially migrants fleeing from Haiti.”
Haitians and the U.S. Asylum System
The Biden Administration recently deported thousands of Haitian refugees and undocumented immigrants from Del Rio, Texas, and back to Haiti.
Since the assassination of the Haiti president, the political climate, security, and economic one have gradually deteriorated—and the recent earthquake that struck Haiti in August 2021 has worsened the livelihood in the country.
During a recent White House briefing the Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said that the U.S. has sent 2,000 people on flights to Haiti, and approximately 8,000 willingly agreed to return to Mexico, and more than 5,000 will be processed and be either expelled or be removed in an immigration removal hearings.
Like Koh’s decision to leave, the U.S. special envoy to Haiti, Daniel Foote, resigned citing inhumane immigration policies. In a letter to the Secretary of State Antony Blinken, he said he does not want to be “associated with the United States’ inhumane, counterproductive decision to deport thousands of Haitian refugees and illegal immigrants to Haiti.”
In a recent public appearance, Foote was critical of the Biden administration’s backing of interim Prime Minister Ariel Henry. Henry is allegedly facing indictment charges in connection with the assassination of Former-Prime Minister Jovenel Moise. Henry allegedly removed the chief prosecutor and denied involvement in the assassination. Some Haitians believe that the only reason Henry remains in power is due to U.S. support. Foote argued that the U.S. should focus on getting to the root cause of instability and said “the root cause of instability is now that the Haitian people do not believe that they have had a voice in their destiny in selecting their leaders.”
Likewise, Michael Posner, the former assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights, and labor, said that the Biden administration “needs to prioritize human rights and democratic governance in Haiti, which are essential if the nation is ever to escape its cycles of chaos and mass migration.” He also recommended that financial help should be diverted to those in Haiti that have a “genuine commitment to human rights and the rule of law.”
While the criticisms toward the Biden administration’s handling of immigration policies are warranted, the administration is in a tough spot considering that it adopted an already broken system from past administrations.
Much like Foote and Posner’s recommendation, Haiti would be well served if the focus is shifted towards eradicating the root causes of instability instead of offering a short-term, Band-Aid solution that only will keep the problem under wraps for a brief period.
The controversy over the Biden Administration’s handling of new tsunami of aliens shows the issue remains intractable in the U.S. and throughout the world. The flood of immigrants due to political instability, climate problems, the easy access to media, and growing inequality worldwide shows the controversy will not disappear in the near future, especially in the U.S. where political polarity over immigration have blocked new immigration legislation for decades.
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