News & Views

An Open Letter to the HIAS Pennsylvania Community

I write today to inform the public that HIAS Pennsylvania is requiring all of its staff and interns to be vaccinated effective October 1, 2021. We are taking this important step because it is clear both from science and history that vaccination is not a personal choice, it is a necessary step to protect the community. In our fight for social justice we strive, always, to advocate for policies that are just, equitable, and inclusive. Respecting human dignity and celebrating human life requires this. A policy that ensures that we are doing everything in our power to keep each other and our friends and neighbors safe does just that.

And what does this have to do with immigration? At the moment, everything. We read with dismay yesterday’s headlines about the Biden administration’s decision to extend Title 42 expulsions indefinitely. Title 42 is a section in the Code of Federal Regulations that allows for the deportation of immigrants without due process because of a public health emergency. When COVID-19 shut the world down in March, 2020, Title 42 was invoked to provide for the immediate expulsion of any immigrant who had crossed the border without documentation – even those seeking asylum or those who had humanitarian claims to make but who had not yet been heard regarding those claims. Because it is a regulation that permits such expulsions without hearings or representation, the invocation of the regulation was temporary and set to expire. And to our surprise and consternation, the Biden administration acted on their fears rather than reason.

We are all afraid of the rising infection rates, the breakthrough infections and the increased hospitalizations. But this time we have a way to combat these. Vaccinations work, masking works, testing works, quarantining works. There are many ways to address the pandemic with persons who cross our borders, none of which require immediate expulsions without due process. The CDC has confirmed that they are not recommending this extension of the invocation of Title 42 precisely because there are ways to address the pandemic that don’t involve the risk that expulsions do. Immigrants deported to Mexico are facing enormous danger from cartels who are waiting to take advantage of them – robbery, assault, kidnapping, rape, or even murder. And, immigrants to whom we could have offered the vaccine are being deported without due process, moving around, being exposed, and exposing others to COVID-19.

So, in light of all of this, we thought we should share our vaccination policy far and wide. To show all who support our work and seek our help that we care about keeping them safe. And to show the world that justice and public health go hand in hand.

With love and anticipation for a better tomorrow,

Cathryn Miller-Wilson