Title 42 Explained

What is title 42?

Title 42 of the United States Code is the code that addresses public health, social welfare, and civil rights. Title 42 was a previously rarely-used clause of the 1944 Public Health Services Law until the Trump Administration began using it 2020 to prevent migrants from entering the United States.

Title 42 grants the government the ability to take emergency action to stop the “introduction of communicable diseases.” The Trump Administration used Title 42 to designate hundreds of thousands of migrants for “expulsion,” arguing that allowing these migrants to enter the U.S. may increase the spread of COVID-19. 

Since the Trump Administration began abusing Title 42 as an anti-migrant policy, Title 42 has been used at least 380,000 times to “expel” migrants at the Southern border. In June 2020, out of 1,650 unaccompanied children who entered the U.S., only 4% (61 children) were transferred to the Office of Refugee Resettlement, while the remaining 1,589 children were expelled under Title 42. There have been many reports of children being held for days in hotels, without access to advocates or lawyers, before being expelled under Title 42. Many of these children have still not been located after being expelled.

The misuse of Title 42 has led to the “expulsion” of adults within just a few hours of people entering the country, often with no chance to plead for asylum and with no documentation of any due process. The Trump Administration denied these migrants their right to seek protection from torture and persecution at home. In addition to Title 42 being misused on the border, it is now being used on the interior as a tool for deportation without due process. Through the ongoing practice of local police and ICE collaboration, Title 42 is being used to detain and expel migrants who have recently arrived to the U.S. Puente is aware of at least two cases in Phoenix that have occurred in the last few months where a total of over 120 migrants and victims of trafficking were arrested, detained, and processed through ICE.

The Biden Administration deportation moratorium does not address the expulsions that have occurred at breakneck speed under Title 42. The deportation moratorium does not apply to those on the Southwest border as long as Title 42 restrictions remain intact. According to advocates on the ground, deportations are continuing at the same pace they were under the Trump Administration. 

Until Biden rescinds the use of Title 42 as an anti-migrant policy, migrants will continue being expelled.


The abuse of Title 42 for expulsions has led to at least two cases of Polimigra raids on the interior of the U.S., both in Phoenix, AZ. The first case was a joint operation between the Phoenix Police Department, Customs & Border Protection, and the Department of Homeland Security, which led to the deportation of 65 people including 2 minors. The second case was a joint operation between the PPD and ICE, in which 65 people were detained and processed through ICE. Both cases involved victims of human trafficking who were not given their due process.