Office of the Chief of Staff
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
1600 Clifton Road NE, MS H21-10
Atlanta, GA 30329
HHS Docket No. CDC-2020-0033
85 FR 16559
April 23, 2020
The Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) respectfully submits this comment to the Department of Health and Human Services’ interim final rule, titled “Suspension of Introduction of Persons Into United States From Designated Foreign Countries or Places for Public Health Purposes,” DHS Docket No. CDC-2020-0033, in the Federal Register at 85 FR 16559, issued March 20, 2020.
WOLA is a leading research and advocacy organization advancing human rights in the Americas. Through our partnerships with human rights defenders around the hemisphere, we are deeply familiar with the security threats that are causing so many of the region’s citizens to migrate to the United States and elsewhere. We have closely followed, and reported on, border and migration issues since 2011.
As noted below, a significant percentage of those coming to the United States’ southwest border seeking asylum have strong and urgent protection needs. As a result, we are concerned about the impact of this interim final rule (Rule) on this vulnerable population. This rule, and CDC’s order (Order) suspending the introduction of persons without documentation, effectively terminates the legal right to seek asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border. The resulting expulsions of asylum seekers are likely to place many in danger: this is refoulement, a violation of human rights and of U.S. law and treaty obligations. The expulsions also threaten to worsen the propagation of COVID-19 in Mexican border cities. Furthermore, the Rule and Order are being implemented in a legally dubious way: they assume that their legal basis supersedes other laws, and they appear to be based on an erroneous assumption that undocumented border crossers pose a substantially higher risk of infection than people with proper travel documents.
The full PDF version of the submitted comment can be viewed here.