A top legal adviser at the State Department issued a memo warning that the Biden administration’s continued use of a Trump-era deportation policy is “illegal,” Politico reports.
Harold Koh, a senior adviser at the State Department’s legal team, issued a memo on October 2 blasting the administration’s use of Title 42, a Trump-era public health policy that blocked incoming migrants and asylum seekers over Covid fears. Koh said the policy was not just “inhumane” but violated federal and international law.
“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,” he wrote, adding that “lawful, more humane alternatives plainly exist.”
An administration official told Politico that Koh is stepping down from his position to take a job at Oxford University but will remain a consultant to the department.
White House defends:
“Title 42 is a public health authority, not an immigration one, and that authority rests with the [Center for Disease Control and Prevention],” a White House official told Politico. “The CDC has determined that the continued expulsion of certain individuals under Title 42 is necessary due to the risks of transmission and spread of COVID-19 in congregate settings, such as U.S. Customs and Border Patrol stations, as well as the threat from emerging variants.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki also told reporters that the administration views the policy as a “public health” issue, not an immigration issue.
“It is also true that there are several exceptions for Title 42, including those who are fleeing persecution, who express a concern of fear. It goes through a process. Those who have health issues — those are individuals who go through our immigration proceedings and process,” she said.
Koh’s memo came just two weeks after US special envoy to Haiti, Daniel Foote, resigned in protest of the administration’s use of the policy to expel thousands of Haitian migrants.
“I will not be associated with the inhumane, counterproductive decision to deport thousands of Haitian refugees,” he wrote in a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
“Our policy approach to Haiti remains deeply flawed, and my recommendations have been ignored and dismissed, when not edited to project a narrative different from my own,” Foote said.