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Just 3,217 migrants screened for US protection as expulsions continue: Report

Migrants are processed at Paso Del Norte International Bridge in El Paso, Texas before being expelled to Mexico under Title 42. (Photo by AFP)

Just over 3,200 asylum-seekers have been screened for US humanitarian protection out of hundreds of thousands of migrants processed under a Trump-era policy at the southern border, according to reports.

Based on unpublished government data obtained by CBS News, by the end of September, only 3,217 migrants processed under the public health law were referred for interviews with US officers, calling into question Biden administration’s assurances of reversing his predecessor’s anti-migrant policy.

Since March 2020, US authorities along the border with Mexico have used a public health authority known as Title 42 to summarily expel migrants more than 1,163,000 times without allowing them to see an immigration judge or an asylum officer, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) figures show.

Title 42 has been described by rights watchdogs as an unlawful and xenophobic Trump-era policy that weaponized public health to prevent vulnerable migrants from seeking asylum in the US.

The CBS report notes that the migrants are required to prove they are "more likely than not" to be tortured if expelled, which would qualify them for refuge under the United Nations Convention Against Torture, of which the US is a signatory.

According to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) data, just 272 of the 3,217 asylum-seekers passed their interviews. Convention Against Torture interviews are the only screenings available to those processed under Title 42, which prevents migrants from seeking asylum.

The new statistics, the report states, show the implementation of Title 42, a clause of the 1944 Public Health Services Law, is “inconsistent with US and international refugee laws”, which were created in the wake of World War II and the Holocaust to ensure countries did not summarily deport people without determining whether they could face persecution if returned.

“This is very disturbing and alarming. Migrants are being prevented from exercising a basic human right, which is to apply for asylum,” Michael Knowles, president of a union that represents hundreds of US government asylum and refugee officers, was quoted as saying by CBS News.

“Because of the way this policy is being carried out, our officers are being prevented from carrying out their mission, which is to ensure that people asking for asylum have a fair hearing and are treated humanely,” he added.

The CBS News analysis of government data shows that during Biden's first seven months in office, US border officials carried out 704,000 expulsions, 92,000 of which led to parents and children traveling as families being turned back. His predecessor had carried out 400,000 expulsions.

The Biden administration is now fighting a lawsuit filed by an American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) that seeks to halt the expulsions of families with children.

The administration has faced blistering criticism after images surfaced showing a border patrol agent on horseback in Del Rio, Texas, grabbing a Haitian migrant by the shirt, pushing him back toward the Rio Grande river.

The inhumane conditions of deportations have even prompted condemnation from Vice President Kamala Haris, who recently said she was ‘deeply troubled about it.”

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