For asylum seekers and advocates, Supreme Court Title 42 ruling brings more frustration, confusion

By Murphy Woodhouse
Published: Wednesday, December 28, 2022 - 8:58pm
Updated: Thursday, January 19, 2023 - 1:21pm

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Venezuelan asylum seekers sit outside of a shelter in Hermosillo, Sonora
Murphy Woodhouse/KJZZ
Venezuelans sit outside of a shelter in Hermosillo, Sonora.

A recent order from the U.S. Supreme Court means the controversial Title 42 policy will likely remain in effect for months to come.

Since early 2020, Title 42 has allowed US immigration officials to expel migrants before they can ask for asylum protection. But a federal judge’s November ruling ordering the policy to be quickly ended brought hope to would-be asylum seekers that this extraordinary period in US immigration policy could be coming to an end. And then came the Supreme Court decision Tuesday.

Kennji Kizuka, director of asylum policy at the International Rescue Committee, said the shifting legal status of Title 42 has brought a sense of “whiplash.”

“This is just an incredibly confusing and distressing and disturbing situation for people who are fleeing for their lives,” he said. “And who were counting on the opportunity to apply for this protection that for decades and decades the U.S. has offered to people in need of help.”

He and other advocates fear that the extension of the policy will mean many asylum seekers continuing to be stranded in sometimes dangerous border cities, or being expelled to the country they fled.

Just before the decision came out, Joanna Williams, executive director of the migrant advocacy group the Kino Border Initiative in Nogales, Sonora, said that she had been speaking with a woman who had fled southern Mexico after her husband was murdered. Stuck in Nogales, the woman is terrified that her husband’s murderers will track her down there.

“This isn't abstract, this isn't just a matter of policy in the clouds,” Williams said. “These are things that are affecting moms and kids and families and dads at the border, and really closing off opportunities to seek asylum.”

She’s also worried that in the wake of the ruling, the Biden administration could work toward expanding the nationalities affected by Title 42, as occurred with Venezuelan nationals in October.

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