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Asylum seekers

Photo: Sandor Csudai. Creative Commons

Asylum Seekers at the Border: Lifting Title 42

May 10, 2023

Asylum Seekers at the Border: Lifting Title 42

Ask students: Why do people leave their homes? How do borders impact people’s lives? How do individuals and societies navigate ambiguous status?


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Re-Imagining Migration believes that teaching about current events, like the end of Title 42, is part of a well-rounded approach to civic education. Below we have provided a curated resource collection framed by questions from the Re-Imagining Migration Learning Arc. Educators might use the resources as part of an independent inquiry or a lesson. We have also suggested a few Project Zero thinking routines you might use to help students explore the resources along with others you might use to begin a classroom discussion.

However you choose to adapt the material to your classroom, ensure that you have set clear expectations and norms for civil conversation. This is particularly important because polarized perspectives about migration are too often expressed using stereotypes. There are many models for creating classroom norms for discussion. Here is one from Facing History and Ourselves.

Use this resource for additional suggestions about teaching current events about migration.


In March 2020, the Trump Administration implemented Title 42 in the early days of the COVID pandemic. According to PBS News Hour, “Title 42 was created to address public health and social welfare and grants the government the ability to take emergency action in numerous ways, including to “stop the introduction of communicable diseases.” While the code has been in place for decades, it was used widely beginning in March 2020 by the administration of then-President Donald Trump in order to regulate border crossings under the premise of increased COVID-19 precautions.” Under Title 42, border agents turned away asylum seekers without a hearing.

In April 2022, National Public Radio’s Deepa Shivaram explained:

Title 42 comes from a federal law that dates back to 1944 meant to help prevent the spread of communicable disease. It’s what essentially gave authority to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to take emergency action in March 2020, allowing immigration authorities to quickly expel migrants and denying entry to asylum seekers.

The 1944 Public Health Service Act established an administrative structure for the country to deal with national and international health problems that could arise, both in war-time and in peace. Back then, tuberculosis was a major public health threat to the nation, and the Public Health Service Act helped provide grants for research and treatment of the disease. It also did things like establish the National Cancer Institute under the National Institutes of Health.

Overall, it’s pretty obscure — and definitely not a measure imagined to operate as central to the debate over immigration and asylum law.

As of May 11, 2023, Title 42 will expire now that the public health emergency is over. Concerns have been raised about the U.S. government’s ability to properly process asylum claims without the support of Title 42. To address this issue, the U.S. government has proposed a series of new measures that would maintain some border restrictions while also providing opportunities for individuals to schedule asylum hearings prior to arriving at the border. It remains unclear how these changes will impact the thousands of migrants awaiting asylum and admission into the United States. Unfortunately, misinformation, stereotypes, and myths often prevent a clear understanding of what is happening at the Southern border.


We have organized the resources below with questions from the Re-Imagining Migration Learning Arc.

Why do people leave their homes?

How do borders impact people’s lives?

How do the visible and invisible borders that people encounter shape their lives?

How do individuals and societies navigate ambiguous status?

What are the rights of people with ambiguous status (people who are not clearly recognized by the State)?

Suggested Project Zero Thinking Routines to use with these sources

Republished with permission from Re-Imagining Migration.

Re-Imagining Migration

Re-Imagining Migration'smissionis to advance the education and well-being of immigrant-origin youth, decrease bias and hatred against young people of diverse origins, and help rising generations develop the critical understanding and empathy necessary to build and sustain welcoming and inclusive com


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