State Department official leaves, upset over continuation of Trump's use of Title 42 on immigration

Appointee Harold Koh says continued use of health-safety authority amid pandemic "not worthy of this administration that I so strongly support"
United States Department of State
United States Department of State
(Alastair Pike / Getty Images)

A senior State Department official has reportedly resigned over the Biden administration leaving in place a Trump-era policy to expel migrants from the southern U.S. border.

The official, Harold Koh, a senior adviser and the lone political appointee on the department's legal team, departed with a memo dated Oct. 2 and obtained by Politico, in which he called the use of the public health authority known as Title 42 "illegal," "inhumane" and "not worthy of this administration that I so strongly support."

Title 42 is essentially a law that gives an administration authority to keep people from entering the United States during a health crisis. The law was effectively activated by President Trump after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Biden administration has continued to used it to remove thousands of migrants without allowing them to seek asylum.

Critics say the use of the law is in violation of U.S. and international law and too much of a carryover from the Trump administration. 

"I believe this Administration’s current implementation of the Title 42 authority continues to violate our legal obligation not to expel or return (“refouler”) individuals who fear persecution, death, or torture, especially migrants fleeing from Haiti," Koh’s memo also reads

He wrote the memo after tens of thousands or Haitians recent went to the southern border to try to get into the U.S., with most of them reportedly turned away.

Koh is reportedly taking a role at Oxford University but will remain in a consulting role, following his long-planned departure. 

Politico says Koh was a legal adviser from 2009-2013 during the Obama administration, making his more-recent status unclear. He declined to comment for the news outlet on his departure.