The continuation and expansion of Title 42—the harmful policy that has allowed the U.S. to quickly deport asylum seekers on the false grounds of protecting public health—is causing a humanitarian crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border, said international humanitarian medical organization Doctors Without. Borders/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) Friday.
Thousands of people are facing extreme weather conditions, lack of shelter and insufficient access to food and water, said MSF, which is providing healthcare and mental health support to affected migrants in Reynosa, Matamoros, Nuevo Laredo and Piedras Negras, and manages programs. along the migration routes of Mexico and Central America. In Piedras Negras, MSF teams have also witnessed arrests and harassment of migrants.
“In recent days, migrants have faced freezing temperatures, which have exacerbated already difficult conditions for the nearly 18,000 people who are currently stranded on the northern border,” said Marcos Tamariz, deputy head of mission of MSF in Mexico and Central America. “The vast majority of people faced these extreme temperatures with nothing more than a blanket, cardboard, plastic or tents.”
In addition to medical, mental health and social support consultations, MSF has donated blankets and hygiene kits at various points along the northern Mexican border.
“During our consultation, a patient told me that in the camp the children did not stop crying throughout the night,” explains Lourdes Ceballos, head of MSF’s mobile activities in Matamoros. “It was very cold and they couldn’t get warm.” In Matamoros, at least 8,000 people sleep outside: “Another told me that she had thought that the migration through the Darién jungle was the cruelest thing she had ever experienced until she had to endure the cold at night under a bridge”.
In recent years, the number of people immigrating to the United States in search of safety and security has reached unprecedented levels. In fiscal year 2022, US border authorities apprehended migrants more than 2.2 million times. About one million of these arrests resulted in deportation under Title 42. This policy, first invoked in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, has been used extensively by both the Trump and Biden administrations to essentially shut down routine asylum processing at the US southern border.
Although Title 42 was scheduled to be repealed at the end of December, it remains in effect following a decision by the US Supreme Court. A few days after the Supreme Court’s order, the Biden administration decided to expand Title 42 and apply it to Haitians, Nicaraguans and Cubans, who were not previously subject to immediate deportation to Mexico.
Simultaneously, the US government announced a parole program for people of these nationalities. It is a limited and discriminatory initiative that cannot adequately replace the usual processing of asylum at the border. Expanding safe pathways for migrants and asylum seekers is crucial, but access to safety should not depend on the nationality of those seeking safety, their ties to sponsors in the US, their ability to travel by plane or your legal status in a third country.
Although these decisions are made at the highest levels of power, the reality that migrants face is distressing. MSF teams working on Mexico’s northern border continue to witness the suffering caused by these inhumane policies.
“This crisis demands a coordinated response and greater involvement of federal, state and local agencies to deal with these emergencies,” Tamariz said. “Policies like Title 42 and similar binational agreements [put] an extraordinary tension on towns and cities that do not have the necessary resources to deal with crises of this magnitude. The implementation of these decisions jeopardizes the dignity, well-being and security that people have been seeking since they fled their countries of origin.”