Policy and Practice

Human Mobility and Human Rights in the COVID-19 Pandemic


Revisiting the 14 Principles of Protection for Migrants, Refugees, and Other Displaced Persons

Building upon the 14 Principles – which set out how international law should protect migrants, refugees, and other displaced persons during the COVID-19 pandemic and have been endorsed by more than 1,000 scholars worldwide – a group of international law scholars from PFMH, the Zolberg Institute of the New School, and Cornell University have collaborated to create a series of short essays in the Cornell International Law Journal looking at a set of pressing legal and policy issues relevant to this and future pandemics and the rights of migrants under international law. 

Protecting Asylum in The U.S.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, PFMH has been working with public health, legal, and medical experts to develop guidance to maintain access to asylum while protecting public health in the US. 

The CDC Order

In March 2020, the CDC issued an order over the objections of senior CDC experts and at the request of Trump Administration officials to block and expel asylum seekers and children under the pretext of protecting public health. The order was extended indefinitely in May 2020 and reissued in October 2020 with minor modifications. 

In May 2020, more than 40 senior U.S. public health and medical experts sent a letter to Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar and CDC Director Robert Redfield, opposing the now indefinite March 20th CDC order that used COVID-19 to effectively ban asylum seekers seeking entry to the U.S. The letter was cited by CNNABC News, and the Wall Street Journal.

Public Health Recommendations

In December 2020, PFMH, alongside leading epidemiologists and public health experts, issued recommendations on public health measures that could be enacted at borders in order to protect public health and the lives of people seeking asylum. The recommendations follow letters signed by public health experts, which urge the revocation of policies that expel children, families and adults seeking asylum.  A press release on the recommendations can be found here. These update previous recommendations issued in May 2020.

The July 9th Rule

On July 9, 2020, the Trump administration proposed a rule that would give the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) expansive authority to deny asylum and other humanitarian protections and to block and deport asylum seekers under the pretext of public health. PFMH and Human Rights First developed a primer, explaining the public health implications of the rule. 

In August 2020, more than 170 US public health and medical professionals signed a letter to the Trump Administration opposing the July 9th proposed rule. The letter was cited by CBS News

PFMH hosted a webinar alongside experts from Human Rights First, Johns Hopkins University, Physicians for Human Rights, and Global Response Management in July 2020 to discuss the public health aspects of the July 9th rule. The webinar was part of a broader outreach effort during the proposed rule's comment period.