CDC Relied on False Assertions in Issuing COVID-19 Order Being Used to Illegally Override U.S. Asylum Laws
On March 20, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a much-criticized COVID-19 order that has effectively eliminated asylum at the southern U.S. border. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is using the order as a pretext to expel asylum seekers, unaccompanied children, and other migrants at U.S. borders without the legal processes required by Congress. In issuing its order, which was extended indefinitely on May 19, the CDC relied on false claims by DHS that individuals subject to the order “must be held . . . in congregate settings” in Customs and Border Protection (CBP) facilities where they “spend hours or days . . . while undergoing processing” among other misleading information.
In fact, DHS has existing legal authority to expeditiously release asylum seekers on parole to await immigration court proceedings inside the United States, including those returned to Mexico under the Migrant Protection Protocols who have already been processed by CBP. As detailed below, government documents reveal that CBP has the space and staff at ports of entry to process asylum seekers and unaccompanied children within a few hours while also implementing recommended public health measures for border processing during the pandemic to protect DHS staff, the families, children, and adults seeking humanitarian protections at the border, and members of the public at large.
DHS’s claim, which the CDC cited as justification for its order, that asylum seekers, unaccompanied children, and other migrants arriving at the border must be held in congregate settings at ports of entry for many hours or days is completely at odds with government documents, federal court findings, and other government data: