Senior State Department legal adviser Harold Koh resigned in protest over the Biden administration’s continued use of Title 42, a policy that allows illegal immigrants to be turned away at the border to reduce the spread of COVID-19, the Washington Examiner reports.
“I believe this Administration’s current implementation of the Title 42 authority continues to violate our legal obligation not to expel or return (“refouler”) individuals who fear persecution, death, or torture, especially migrants fleeing from Haiti,” Koh wrote in a memo.
“Second, my concerns have only been heightened by recent tragic events in Haiti, which had led this Administration wisely to extend temporary protected status (TPS) to Haitians already in the United States,” Koh added.
“Third, lawful, more humane alternatives plainly exist, and there are approaching opportunities in the near future to substitute those alternatives in place of the current, badly
flawed policy,” Koh also noted.
What’s Title 42?
The purpose of Title 42, initiated under former President Donald Trump, was to allow immigration officials to turn away immigrants at the border to reduce the spread of COVID-19. The practical policy would, therefore, be for a limited time during the pandemic.
Harold Koh said in his Oct. 2 resignation letter that the policy was “inhumane.”
His resignation comes after a special envoy to Haiti resigned last month to protest the return of Haitian migrants from Central America back to their home country.https://t.co/1pH1GPaINH
— Washington Examiner (@dcexaminer) October 4, 2021
However, Koh argued the practice is inhumane, especially as it related to the recent movement of nearly 15,000 Haitians who gathered in September, in conditions of squalor, under a bridge in Del Rio, Texas.
The group was given no opportunity for testing, vaccination and was certainly not in an environment before or after crossing the Rio Grande River that included social distancing or masking.
Contrast with Afghanistan
In contrast, Koh also argued the recent airlift of more than 100,000 Afghan refugees did not face the same policy concerns Haitians and other border crossers have with Title 42 expulsion.
Scoop: Harold Koh, a sr. adviser & sole political appointee on State’s legal team, is leaving current post & sent a memo calling Biden’s use of Title 42 “illegal,” “inhumane,” & “not worthy of this Administration that I so strongly support.”
w/ @alexbwardhttps://t.co/TcwSizFP63 pic.twitter.com/fYFZRCpn3c
— Alex Thompson (@AlexThomp) October 4, 2021
“Yet our actions and approaches regarding Afghan refugees stand in stark contrast to the continuing use of Title 42 to rebuff the pleas of thousands of Haitians and myriad others arriving at the Southern Border who are fleeing violence, persecution, or torture,” Koh wrote.
Koh has a strong argument for the contrast between the Haitian migrants and Afghan refugees, but many Americans would disagree with ending Title 42 while the nation continues to face high numbers of COVID-19 cases.