Public health experts urge CDC to end ‘pseudoscientific and discriminatory’ Title 42 policy


“Earlier this week, the Biden administration announced it intends to continue this policy despite the announcement that vaccinated tourists, shoppers, and visitors will now be able to cross our borders, in addition to truck drivers and a long list of other persons dubbed ‘essential’ who were permitted to cross throughout the pandemic,” the public health experts write in The Hill. That news has been welcomed by border region businesses that have depended on Mexican customers for their survival.

But “[t]his week’s announcement conspicuously left out one group yet again: Asylum seekers,” Monette Zard of Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, Michele Heisler of Physicians for Human Rights and University of Michigan, and Paul Spiegel of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health (another former CDC expert) write.

“From its inception under the Trump administration, the misuse of ‘Title 42 to block and expel asylum seekers—despite the objections of senior CDC experts and other public health professionals—was based on political, rather than scientific, considerations, rooted in racist tropes and populistic untruths.” They note that cynical politicians have leaned into this racist trope, including Gov. Greg Abbott, Sen. Ted Cruz, and Gov. Ron DeSantis.

“The Title 42 order helps to fuel this rhetoric,” the experts said. “As part of its public health mandate, the CDC should dismantle tropes that present migrants as vectors of disease rather than promote them.

“When public health policy is subverted to serve political agendas, or to exclude, control, or discriminate against certain groups, we are all at risk,” they continue. “War, persecution and torture do not pause for pandemics, and the right to seek asylum is enshrined in both domestic and international law.” They write “we have an arsenal of proven public health tools, including testing, vaccines and other common sense public health measures that would allow the United States to process asylum-seekers effectively. It is time to definitively end Title 42.”

While Canadian and Mexican visitors have been allowed to enter the U.S. for purposes deemed essential by the government throughout the pandemic, fully vaccinated travelers will be allowed to enter via land for shopping and other “non-essential” purposes within the coming weeks. But that policy change raised a major discrepancy: Tourists can visit for a day of shopping, but vulnerable people can’t exercise their asylum rights? “The problem is within our own country,” Dr. Anthony Fauci recently said. “Certainly immigrants can get infected, but they’re not the driving force of this, let’s face reality here.”

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