tags: Press Releases

What’s at Stake with Title 42 Amendment Vote: Will Democrats Aid and Abet GOP Effort to End Asylum as We Know It?

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Frank Sharry: “Under the guise of a short-term extension of Title 42, Lankford-Sinema threatens to end our asylum system as we know it”

Washington, DC – As several outlets are reporting, Senate Democrats are preparing to give in to Republican demands to hold a vote to extend Title 42 – a public health measure championed by Stephen Miller and ruled as unnecessary by the CDC – as part of a process for moving forward on a COVID relief package. 

A must-read piece from the Washington Post’s Paul Waldman and Greg Sargent puts the potential Senate vote into essential, larger context of what’s really at stake. Because the Title 42 proposal – the Lankford-Sinema bill – changes the standard by which Title 42 could be lifted in the future, it threatens to shut down the asylum system as we know it for years.

The Waldman and Sargent column, titled “Once again, GOP hostage-taking is on the verge of working,” is excerpted below, followed by a quote from America’s Voice Executive Director Frank Sharry:

“Here’s what ‘bipartisanship’ looks like these days: Republicans hold important legislation protecting all Americans hostage, and Democrats give in to GOP demands and hand the hostage-takers a policy victory.

…Moderate Democrats, spooked by the GOP attacks [on Title 42 and the border], are demanding a vote on a bill that would effectively codify that Title 42 rule into law for the foreseeable future. 

…That’s right: To deal with an ongoing pandemic that has killed around 1 million Americans, Democrats must deal a blow to the asylum system, keeping the United States’ doors closed to those fleeing oppression and violence.

The amendment that will come to the floor will probably be based on a three-page bill introduced by Sens. James Lankford (R-Okla.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and other senators … The Sinema-Lankford bill would require that the administration’s covid national emergency declaration be lifted before there’s an end to mass expulsions of asylum-seeking migrants without hearings.

…this could lock in dramatic restrictions on asylum seeking for the foreseeable future, given that this covid emergency declaration might be with us for some time. ‘If the end of Title 42 is tied to the covid public health emergency, then it could be years before the right to seek asylum is restored in full,’ Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, a policy analyst at the American Immigration Council, told us.

What makes this so galling is that it might not even be necessary from the standpoint of moderate Democrats themselves. Later this week, a federal judge is widely expected to block the administration from lifting the Title 42 policy, as part of a lawsuit brought by GOP-controlled states against Biden’s move. That would give those moderate Democrats an out. But that doesn’t appear to be enough for them. All indications are that they also want to vote to codify this in law, in the belief that it will insulate them from GOP attacks in the midterms.”

The following is a statement from Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice:

Under the guise of a short-term extension of Title 42, Lankford-Sinema threatens to end our asylum system as we know it. 

Those who believe that a vote for Lankford-Sinema is merely a vote on whether to temporarily extend Title 42 should take another look. The bill codifies a standard that is almost impossible to meet. In fact, extending Title 42 legislatively could prevent vulnerable populations like Ukrainians, Cubans, Venezuelans and others from ever being able to seek or receive asylum. 

If Democrats want Title 42 extended, they should be aware that a federal court in Louisiana has promised to do just that this Friday. But a vote to institutionalize Title 42 in law would have unintended and long-term consequences. Under Lankford-Sinema, the CDC, which has ruled that the use of Title 42 to prevent asylum is not a public health policy that makes sense, is cut out of the decision-making. The bill requires that the Surgeon General certify that there is no longer a public health emergency. Given that COVID-19 keeps generating variants, given the sorry state of vaccinations and therapeutics worldwide, and given the fact that funding and policy is intertwined with the Surgeon General’s public health emergency designation, it could be many years, even decades, before the public health emergency designation is lifted. 

Ending refugee protection for those fleeing violence and human rights violations is a betrayal of the Democrats’ supposed values and our nation’s identity. It will do nothing to stop Republican attacks and falsehoods over the border, and it will do nothing to modernize our immigration system so that it serves our interests and reflects our values. What it does is make the Democratic Party complicit in advancing the GOP’s nativist agenda.