The Trump administration on Tuesday indefinitely extended its policy of urgently expelling most migrants and asylum seekers crossing the border irregularly in a move rights groups said is an effort to “exploit a health crisis” to effectively end asylum at the US-Mexico border.
Robert Redfield, the director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), issued the extension of the order that authorises Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to immediately remove migrants and asylum seekers in an effort to stem the spread of the coronavirus while in custody.
President Donald Trump’s administration issued the initial 30-day order in March, and it was extended for another month in April. The new version notably has no fixed end date, though it said the CDC will review public health data every 30 days to ensure it is still necessary.
Immigrant rights advocates said the order violates obligations the US has towards asylum seekers.
“These now indefinite restrictions have nothing to do with curbing the spread of COVID-19,” said Andrea Flores, deputy director of immigration policy for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
“The administration refuses to heed the advice of public health experts to protect immigrants, government employees, and the general public from sickness and death, including by releasing people from ICE and CBP detention and suspending civil immigration enforcement,” Flores said in a statement. “Instead, the president is hellbent on exploiting a public health crisis to achieve his long-held goal of ending asylum at the border … Do not be fooled: Trump’s goal is not to protect our health, it’s to sow division and advance his political agenda.”
Charanya Krishnaswami, the Americas advocacy director of Amnesty International, added on Twitter that “every which way you look at it, from public health to human rights, from our domestic laws to our international treaty obligations, this order is ill-advised and unlawful – pure xenophobia masquerading as a public health measure.”