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Hola es su centro para mantenerse informado, compartir ideas y conectarse con recursos. (Hola is your hub to stay informed, share ideas, and connect with resources in northern Illinois.)

Illinois Congresswoman Delia Ramirez says 'Title 42 needed to come to an end'

Congresswoman Delia Ramirez
Congresswoman Delia Ramirez

Illinois’ first Latina congresswoman recently returned from visiting the southern U.S. border with Mexico. Her visit came as a controversial COVID-era immigration policy is scheduled to end.

Congresswoman Delia Ramirez of Illinois’ third Congressional District said she’s glad that Title 42 is expiring.

“Title 42 needed to come to an end,” Ramirez said. “But the real solution is to ensure that we have a comprehensive immigration reform and that it happens immediately. The real solution is making sure that we are working with these other countries to get to the root cause of migration, and (seeking) how we can support people in their countries. But also, that we are never, ever denying people asylum.”

She said Title 42 doesn’t represent U.S. values.

Title 42 refers to a policy authorized under the Trump Administration that allowed for US Border patrol to expel migrants from seeking asylum in the U.S. during the COVID-19 pandemic. Immigrant rights advocates argue it was less about the health risk and instead a pretext to keep migrants out of the country.

Since it went into effect, the United States has used Title 42 over 2.8 million times to expel migrants.

Last spring, the CDC said the policy was no longer necessary, but battles in the courts kept the rule intact.

Because of the policy, many asylum seekers have been stuck at the border. Critics of Title 42 have said the policy puts migrants' lives in danger as they become vulnerable to harassment from gangs and receive little governmental support.

In March, 40 migrants died in a fire in a detention migrant center in Ciudad Juarez. Then in April, the Associated Press reported that a migrant camp was set on fire damaging shelters that held about 2,000 people.

The Biden Administration, in anticipation of a surge of border crossings, announced plans to send troops to the border. Reports state they will serve in an administrative role. The administration also plans to set up migrant processing centers in Latin America including Guatemala and Colombia.

Ramirez said the plan is problematic.

“The fact that we're asking people to wait in their countries for refuge . . . They are seeking refuge or asylum seekers for a reason. They shouldn't have to wait there for asylum,” the representative said.

“They're going to die there. And that's going to be on our backs. Right? That's going to be on our terms.”

Last month, Ramirez visited the border at Brownsville. She’s a vice ranking member of the Homeland Security House Committee and went as part of a delegation.

She’s been to the border before but under very different circumstances.

She said her first time was when her Guatemalan parents crossed the Rio Grande at the border while her mother was pregnant with her.

Ramirez says she found little understanding from some Border officials as to why some risk their lives to cross to the US outside of port of entry.

“Because they're dying on the other side, because they're starving on the other side, because these three, four or five, six weeks of waiting for an application or eligibility is literally killing people,” Ramirez said.

“So, their only choice is to risk their lives on a wall or on a Grand River, or dehydration which is the only option they feel they have,” the Congresswoman said.

When Ramirez refers to an application, it’s regarding migrants from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, Venezuela and Ukraine who are allowed special consideration for applying for asylum. It requires migrants in some instances to be at the U.S.-Mexico border for that consideration, with no clear timetable or guarantee that they can bring forth their case to border officials.

Illinois, and in particular Chicago, have been grappling with an increase of migrants arriving from Texas since last fall. Ahead of the lift of Title 42, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot declared a state of emergency stating there’s no more space at emergency shelters to house migrants.

Ramirez as part of the Illinois Congressional Delegation in a letter to Homeland Security called for reimbursement of $20.5 million to Chicago that’s been used to support migrants that have arrived from Texas. She’s called on the Biden Administration to take action under its power to address the migrant crisis.

“That we are providing resources to cities like Chicago, to continue to be a sanctuary community, that we are providing worker authorizations and that we're extending parole . . . that needs to be the priority.”

In the U.S. House, Republicans have gone in the other direction. They're proposing legislation to make it harder for folks to apply for asylum and easier for border patrol to remove migrants. But even among the party, they haven't reached a consensus with moderate Republicans.

A Chicago native, Maria earned a Master's Degree in Public Affairs Reporting from the University of Illinois Springfield . Maria is a 2022-2023 corps member for Report for America. RFA is a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues and communities. It is an initiative of The GroundTruth Project, a nonprofit journalism organization. Un residente nativo de Chicago, Maria se graduó de University of Illinois Springfield con una licenciatura superior en periodismo de gobierno.