Title 42 and International Law: Understanding the obligations of states during Covid-19

During the early weeks of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Trump Administration invoked the Public Health Service Act, otherwise known as Title 42, to temporarily suspend the introduction of certain non-citizens to the U.S. attempting to enter through Canada and Mexico. The Biden Administration has continued to rely on Title 42 since taking office in January 2021. Since initially invoked in March 2020, the orders issued pursuant to Title 42 have been used to expel over 1,000,000 migrants and asylum seekers from the U.S. border without adequately screening for claims to asylum or other protection from removal.

This event will examine the U.S. obligations to migrants, including asylum seekers, how the implementation of Title 42 may violate U.S. obligations under international law (such as U.S. non-refoulement obligations under the Protocol to the Refugee Convention, the Convention Against Torture and international human rights law), the complex history of U.S. treatment of specific migrant communities, the impact on migrants, including asylum seekers, and efforts to end the use of Title 42 to expel migrants. 


  • Lee Gelernt, Deputy Director, Immigrants’ Rights Project, ACLU
  • Oona Hathaway, Gerard C. and Bernice Latrobe Smith Professor of International Law, Yale Law School
  • Louise Ivers, Professor of Global Health and Social Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Executive Director, Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Global Health
  • Guerline Jozef, President, Haitian Bridge Alliance
  • Melissa Stewart, Research Fellow and Adjunct Professor of Law, Georgetown University Law Center and Co-chair, ASIL Migration Law Interest Group (Moderator)

This session was organized by ASIL’s Migration Law Interest Group and Refugee Law Interest Group.