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Federal Court Strikes Down Title 42 in Major Victory for Asylum Seekers

CONTACT: Inga Sarda-Sorensen, ACLU, 347-514-3984, Brianna Krong, CGRS, 415-581-8835, Leticia Rojas, TCRP, 512-474-5073/ext. 116, Jessica Ortiz, RAICES, Laura Rusu, Oxfam America, 202-459-3739,

WASHINGTON — A federal court today struck down Title 42, which was used by the federal government to expel asylum seekers. The ruling applies to families and single adults.

The American Civil Liberties Union, Center for Gender & Refugee Studies, Oxfam America, RAICES, Texas Civil Rights Project, the ACLU of Texas, and the ACLU of the District of Columbia first sued the Trump administration over Title 42 expulsions in 2020. After hitting an impasse in negotiations with the Biden administration, the groups went back to court in July 2021 to seek an immediate termination of this policy.

They successfully argued that Title 42 restricted immigration at the border based on an unprecedented and unlawful invocation of the Public Health Service Act. The policy was first implemented during the Trump administration, in violation of longstanding immigration statutes requiring that asylum seekers receive a full and fair proceeding to determine their right to protection in the United States.

The following reactions are from:

ACLU attorney Lee Gelernt, the lead lawyer in the Title 42 challenge: “This is a huge victory and one that literally has life-and-death stakes. We have said all along that using Title 42 against asylum seekers was inhumane and driven purely by politics. Hopefully this ruling will end this horrific policy once and for all.”

Melissa Crow, director of litigation at the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies: “For over two years, the Title 42 policy has unjustly slammed the door on people seeking safety in the United States. Desperate families, children, and adults have been deprived of their right to seek asylum and returned to countries where they face violence, torture, and even death. Today’s ruling affirms that there has never been a public health rationale for expelling asylum seekers to danger. The Biden administration must now heed the court’s order and swiftly restart asylum processing at the southern border.”

Karla Marisol Vargas, senior attorney with the Beyond Borders Program at the Texas Civil Rights Project: “Today’s decision is a win for the thousands of individuals hoping to exercise their right to safety. For the first time in years, people who are seeking protection at our borders, the majority of them Black, Indigenous, and Brown, will be allowed to exercise their right to seek safety and be processed under U.S immigration law, rather than being automatically sent back to danger. We expect that without Title 42 in place, the U.S. will have the ability and the capacity to process people — it’s a matter of will. TCRP has been fighting to end this policy for years in the courts, and at every turn the Biden administration has fought to keep it in place. The Biden administration should permanently end this cruel Trump-era policy that has stripped people of their due process rights. Ending Title 42 is the first step to restoring access to asylum and ensuring we welcome all people with dignity, respect, and compassion.”

Tami Goodlette, director of litigation at RAICES: “RAICES and our clients celebrate today’s win and Judge Sullivan’s decision declaring an end to the immoral Title 42 policy. Title 42 was never about public safety or the pandemic, but rather is shrouded in xenophobia and anti-immigrant campaigns to keep immigrants out of the U.S. For nearly three years, RAICES has worked with the many families subjected to Title 42, including the lead plaintiff in this case Ms. Huisha-Huisha, while detained in the Karnes Family Detention Center. In the face of a deeply racist and violent policy, these families displayed awe-inspiring dignity as they resisted the Department of Homeland Security’s attempts to forcibly expel them without any semblance of due process. These families stood up and fought to seek asylum in the U.S. as is their right under U.S. and international law, and they won. We could not be more proud of them. Judge Sullivan's decision sends a clear message to those who try to bake their xenophobia into future policies: Seeking asylum is a human right. We are here to protect that right, and will continue to hold policymakers accountable.”

Diana Kearney, senior legal advisor at Oxfam America: “We are thrilled that Judge Sullivan’s decision ends a racist and illegal policy that sacrificed the lives of vulnerable children, women, and men at the political altar. While nothing can undo the incredible violence that millions of refugees have endured at the hands of these cruel and misguided polices, we welcome the renewed opportunity for the United States to offer asylum to refugees and restore respect for the rule of law.”


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