Children Need Protection, Not Rejection: The Violence of Title 42

April 19, 2022 | Texas

By Julieta Suárez Calderón and Esther Reyes

On April 1st, the Biden Administration announced it would terminate Title 42, a harmful policy that expels migrants and asylum-seekers in the U.S. back to the conditions they fled. Advocates across the country credit the decision to the perseverance of activists fighting against this racist policy that has disproportionately impacted Black migrants seeking protection. They also called on the administration to put an immediate end to all expulsions of people seeking asylum. 

Title 42 began ​​in March 2020 when the Trump administration invoked section 265 of Title 42 of U.S. health law to close the borders and expel people seeking asylum under the guise of a COVID-19 public health necessity. The Biden administration continued the policy, leading to more family separations and child endangerment. Under Title 42, 1.7 million people, including more than 18,000 unaccompanied minors as young as four, have been expelled to Mexico or their home countries. Seeking asylum and protection, they were instead left even more vulnerable to the kinds of crises they were trying to escape. 

Families and children seek asylum because their lives depend on it. When children are forced to flee their homes, they are especially vulnerable to violence, exploitation and abuse. Through all this trauma, their health and psychosocial needs go unmet. And while children are resilient, they need a chance to heal and recover from the physical, emotional and mental effects of traumatic stress on their developing brains and bodies.

When children seek protection, they deserve a chance to find it. They deserve a chance to recover from violence and fear. They deserve a chance at health, education and protection from harm. Children deserve a chance to thrive. 

Title 42 denies children protection and instead exposes them to violence and danger. Though the policy is set to end May 23, 2022, it will continue to wreak havoc on children and migrants seeking safety. Human Rights First recently reported at least 9,886 kidnappings, torture, rape, and other violent attacks as a result of Title 42, including attacks on families with small children and unaccompanied children. 

Many families are forced to choose between staying together in dangerous conditions, or separating in hopes the children will be taken in as unaccompanied minors. Yet while “unaccompanied children have been exempt from the Title 42 order…since November 2020 following a court order…and a subsequent policy change,” the Department of Homeland Security has continued to expel some unaccompanied children. Just last month, two Central American boys who were expelled to Mexico under Title 42 were kidnapped in Ciudad Juárez and held captive for a month before they escaped. 

Under Title 42, Black and brown migrants have suffered disproportionately, especially Haitians. As advocates have noted, “While some Ukrainians fleeing the consequences of yet another deadly war have been able to seek asylum, those fleeing similar conditions from Black and brown nations have not been given the same right— evidence of the racism and xenophobia that drives our immigration enforcement policies.” 

In fact, in the week following the announcement of Title 42’s termination, hundreds of Haitians were expelled, and Senate Republicans blocked crucial COVID-19 relief legislation because it did not include xenophobic amendments to reinstate Title 42. Senate Democrats then joined Republicans to introduce a bipartisan bill to keep Title 42 in place, and Arizona, Missouri and Louisiana (joined by 18 additional states as of April 15) filed a lawsuit against the federal government over the termination of Title 42. 

The United States has the capacity and the resources to welcome with dignity all those seeking refuge and safety, especially those who have long endured systemic violence and oppression. The Biden Administration must end expulsions immediately, restart asylum processes at the southern border, and keep children safe and families together. 


Julieta Suárez Calderón

Immigration Policy Intern

Esther Reyes

Director of Immigration Policy & Advocacy

Statements on the Announcement of the Termination of TItle 42 

(Compiled by the Children Thrive Action Network) 

Welcome With Dignity
Advocates Welcome End Of Title 42; Demand Not One More Expulsion 

Black Immigrant’s Rights Organizations Statement On Title 42 Termination 

Women’s Refugee Commission
WRC responds to Biden administration decision to terminate Title 42 in May 

Kids in Need of Defense
KIND Welcomes Biden Administration’s Decision to End Title 42

First Focus on Children
Children to benefit from end of Title 42 

Moms Rising
Good Riddance, Title 42! 

National Immigration Law Center
NILC Statement on the End of Title 42 Expulsions

Save the Children
Save the Children Statement on Biden Administration Decision to Rescind Title 42 

Families Belong Together
Ending Title 42 Was an Important Step for Restoring Humanity at the Border

Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc.
Decision to End Title 42 Was Right; CLINIC Calls for Next Steps That Welcome All

The Children’s Partnership
Statement from The Children’s Partnership

This blog is part of a series outlining immigration enforcement policies that undermine the ability of children in mixed-status immigrant families to thrive.

See the other blogs in this series!