By Peter Svarzbein

Title 42, a federal policy removing the long-standing right of people to request asylum after entering the United States, is expiring and there will be immediate challenges for El Paso and other communities on the U.S.-Mexico border and other cities as well.

Peter Svarzbein

ADL (the Anti-Defamation League) believes this is a difficult but welcome step forward. From ADL’s perspective, restricting the rights of asylum seekers is not only a violation of U.S. law and our international obligations, but it also runs counter to American and Jewish beliefs and values. 

First and foremost, Title 42 was discriminatory toward migrants and asylum seekers from specific countries. The xenophobic policy has been used to restrict entry into the United States for people from much of Central and South America while allowing people from other countries to enter.  

It has led to the detention and expulsion of many asylum seekers, including unaccompanied minors, who are seeking protection from violence, persecution, and other forms of harm in their home countries. Many of these individuals have already experienced trauma and desperately need help and support. Turning them away or treating them inhumanely is unethical and violates basic human rights. 

As a result, ADL has strongly opposed Title 42 and any policy that seeks to limit or deny asylum seekers access to protection and safety. 

Moreover, ADL believes that Title 42 violates the principles of compassion and empathy, which are central to Jewish tradition. As an organization that has been fighting against hate and discrimination for more than a century, ADL understands the importance of treating others with kindness and respect, even in the face of adversity. 

Denying asylum seekers and migrants the opportunity to seek protection and safety in the United States is not only cruel but also counterproductive, as it creates a culture of fear and mistrust. Instead, ADL believes that we should be working to promote greater understanding and empathy toward those who are fleeing violence and persecution in their home countries and urge our federal leaders to enact long overdue comprehensive immigration reform. 

We applaud the efforts to unwind unjust asylum policies and programs, including taking steps to end disastrous programs such as the Migrant Protection Protocols and the Asylum Cooperative Agreements, as well as vacating decisions which made it almost impossible for survivors of gang and domestic violence to find safety in the United States. The end of Title 42 is another step in the right direction of affording respect and dignity to those seeking asylum in the United States.  

We cannot compromise our long-term, foundational American values just because we will face short-term challenges with immigration. When we commit ourselves to the ethical treatment of the tired, poor, huddled masses yearning to breathe free, we re-commit ourselves to securing liberty and justice for all.  

Peter Svarzbein is ADL community engagement manager for El Paso.