Judge says migrants must still be refused entry for health reasons

A federal judge said Monday he would block the Biden administration from exempting migrants from deportation under a Trump-era public health order until the policy is officially lifted next month. .

The federal government announced plans to lift the order, known as Title 42, on May 23 — a move that is expected to create a huge increase in migration from Mexico. Several states have challenged the plan, saying it would create border chaos and lead to significant impacts on states forced to deal with newly arrived migrants.

Judge Robert R. Summerhays of the United States District Court for the Western District of Louisiana has yet to rule on whether Title 42, passed at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, should stand in place. But he said he would in the meantime grant a request from the states of Missouri, Louisiana and Arizona to stop the federal government from taking early action to ignore Title 42 for some migrants and process them according to procedures. normal immigration.

In their lawsuit, the states said there were indications that many migrants from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador were already not subject to deportations under Title 42, more than a month before the order is scheduled to be lifted.

“So while Title 42 may be “technically still in place,” the reality on the ground is that DHS “has largely stopped using Title 42 to deport migrants from Northern Triangle countries,” the states motion said, citing a report from Fox News.

The Department of Homeland Security acknowledged in its response to the query that it has begun processing some Central American migrants — about 14% in a recent week-long period — in accordance with pre-pandemic guidelines. However, according to the agency, the migrants were not necessarily allowed to stay in the country, but were placed in an accelerated deportation procedure, which makes it more difficult for them to return to the country later.

In the states’ proposed order, which Judge Summerhays said he would sign, the states called for a halt to any action that “formally implements” the termination of Title 42 or has “substantial effect similar “.

Judge Summerhays, an appointee of President Donald J. Trump whose administration originally passed the public health order, also ordered the government to swear under oath that the agencies had taken no action during the last month which could be “reasonably characterized” as execution. termination order by May 23.

The public health policy was initially adopted in 2020 to slow the spread of Covid-19. Its effect has been to drastically reduce the number of undocumented migrants allowed to enter the United States, a key goal of Mr Trump’s immigration policies.

President Biden, who came to power promising a more humane border policy, nevertheless tried to plan for the expected impact of the lifting of the public health order. Some forecasts suggest that around 12,000 to 13,000 migrants a day could cross the southern border once the policy is no longer in place. The administration has prepared for up to 18,000 daily border crossings, a huge increase from the current rate of around 8,000 a day.

The motion filed by the three states calls for requiring the Department of Homeland Security to stop all processing of migrants from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras in the manner that prevailed prior to the public health measure, which essentially allowed many migrants to enter the United States and file asylum claims.

The temporary restraining order will end in 14 days, he said, unless the court takes steps to dissolve or extend it before it expires.

The three states filed the lawsuit on April 3, two days after the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued its order ending the policy in May. On Friday, they asked the court to issue a temporary restraining order to end any early removal of Title 42, saying it appeared the feds were “already partially enforcing the termination order” long before the May 23.

Judge Summerhays announced his intention to grant the motion during a virtual status conference on the case.

Since its introduction in March 2020, Title 42 has been invoked by officers along the southern border to deport migrants more than 1.8 million times – to Mexico or their home countries, including on flights – without allowing them to apply for asylum.

A number of Republican lawmakers, as well as a growing number of Democrats, had criticized the plan to eliminate the measure due to predictions of chaos that would ensue along the border.

At the same time, progressive Democrats had pressured the Biden administration to drop the policy, which they said was no longer justified on health grounds and was instead used to limit immigration.

The growing number of encounters with migrants by the US Border Patrol has given Republicans ammunition to attack the administration for failing to check unauthorized migration, even with the order in place.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed a lawsuit Friday against the termination of Title 42, describing it as “the only” rule holding back a “devastating flood of illegal immigration.”

Authorities met more than 221,000 migrants last month, the highest number in at least two decades. In March, officials fired people under Title 42 half the time.

The public health order has historically been used inconsistently, with the government allowing migrants under humanitarian exemptions and for other reasons.

Along many stretches of the border, Mexican authorities on the other side have refused to accept the return of migrants with young children and from distant countries, such as Brazil, Cuba and India.

Human rights advocates say Mr Biden’s administration has used the public health measure to limit immigration.

“We said from the start that this was never warranted, and we applauded the CDC’s decision to lift the order,” said Robyn Barnard, senior counsel at Human Rights First. “It’s clear from these lawsuits and Congress’s attempts to keep Title 42 in place that any pretense that it was a public health measure was just that.”

A recent poll suggested lifting Title 42 was viewed unfavorably by a majority of voters, and the president’s party is already facing headwinds ahead of the midterm elections.

The White House said Title 42 was a public health provision and the CDC decided to lift it, forcing the government to prepare to handle an increased volume of migrants crossing the border.

Vedant Patel, a White House spokesman, returned a request for comment on the filing and questions about whether the administration would appeal to the Justice Department. In a tweet, Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt wrote, “Our office just obtained a temporary restraining order to keep Title 42 in place. This is a huge victory for border security, but the fight continues.

Zolan Kanno-Youngs contributed report.

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