The Public Health Code Separating Families at the Border | Sojourners

The Public Health Code Separating Families at the Border

While countermeasures will attempt to keep Title 42 in place, we have witnessed the power of advocates to effectively hold our government accountable.
Faded silhouetted illustrations of people against a gray backdrop, who are walking with children and bags in hand.
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I KNEW ALMOST immediately it was bad news.

“Maria was separated at the border from her auntie,” my friend said in a phone call. “We don’t know where she is. Her auntie was sent back to Mexico and we think is being held by a drug cartel. They separated them under Title 42.”

I felt sick. Four-year-old Maria (not her real name) and her aunt were fleeing violent circumstances. They arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border to exercise their legal right — protected by both international and U.S. law — to request asylum, as other members of Maria’s family had done prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In March 2020, everything changed. The Trump administration, through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), invoked a rarely used subsection of public health code called Title 42 to close U.S. borders to asylum seekers and unaccompanied children under the guise of preventing the spread of COVID-19. It made that decision against the advice of many public health experts, including some within the CDC, who agreed there was no public health rationale for a ban on asylum seekers as a group. Though the border remained open to truckers, temporary workers, students, and others, border agents turned back asylum seekers to Mexico or their home country.

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A picture of the cover of the February/March 2023 Sojourners issue titled "The Trouble with Christian Heroes." A headshot of Jean Vanier is split apart by thick red lines and pictures of the L'Arche logo and photos of people in these communities.
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