A federal judge on Friday ruled that a pandemic-related public health order must continue, allowing the federal government to turn away migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border, including those seeking asylum.
U.S. District Judge Robert Summerhays of Louisiana sided with the 24 Republican-led states that sued the federal government to keep the guidelines in place. He said the states had established a “significant threat of injury” that lifting the order would have on them.
“The record also includes evidence supporting the Plaintiff States’ position that such an increase in border crossings will increase their costs for healthcare reimbursements and education services,” Summerhays wrote. “These costs are not recoverable.”
The judge’s ruling means that the Title 42 restrictions won’t end Monday, as the Biden administration had planned.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said that the administration would continue to enforce the restrictions in line with the court’s decision; however, the Justice Department is appealing the ruling.
“The authority to set public health policy nationally should rest with the Centers for Disease Control, not with a single district court,” she said in a statement.
The administration’s appeal will be heard by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which has ruled against the Biden administration on several policies.
Title 42 is a health policy, part of the Public Health Service Act of 1944, that gives authorization to the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services to put in place measures to stop the spread of communicable diseases from foreign countries into the United States.
The chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Democratic Representative Raul Ruiz, said the court ruling was “outrageous, ridiculous and erodes our asylum system.”
“Title 42 is a public health emergency policy that can be initiated and ended by an administration. It is not a way to manage the border,” he said in a statement.
Republican Representative John Katko, ranking member of the House Committee on Homeland Security, hailed the ruling as “a win for our homeland security, Border Patrol agents and the safety of Americans.”
“When I was at the border last month, every frontline Border Patrol agent we spoke to said that without Title 42 authority to immediately expel migrants, they would lose operational control,” he said in a statement.
Title 42 was imposed in March 2020 under the Trump administration at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. It has denied migrants a chance to request asylum under U.S. law and international treaty on public health grounds.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced in April that it would terminate the Title 42 order on May 23 because it deemed it “no longer necessary” as COVID-19 cases decreased and as vaccines became widely available.
After the CDC announcement, Louisiana, Arizona, Missouri and 21 other states sought to bar the administration from rescinding the Title 42 order.
Republican-led states argued in court that the Biden administration should have gone through a formal notice and comment-taking process to end the Title 42 policy, even though the CDC under the Trump administration had said it could stop enforcing the policy at any moment.
Summerhays agreed that the Biden administration failed to follow administrative procedures and said ending the restrictions could also result in a surge of border crossing.
He cited government predictions that removing the restrictions could triple border crossings, to as many as 18,000 daily.
The Department of Homeland Security said it would comply with the court’s ruling but added, “Title 42 is not an immigration authority, but a public health authority.”
The department said it would “continue to execute its comprehensive, whole-of-government plan to manage potential increases in the number of migrants encountered at our border.”
In April, migrant encounters at the southern border led to about 97,000 migrant expulsions. Under Title 42 U.S. border officials may quickly expel migrants to Mexico or their home countries without processing their asylum claims.
According to U.S. government data, migrants have been expelled about 2 million times since Title 42 was put in place in 2020.
Immigration advocates have often criticized the U.S. use of Title 42 as a deterrence policy, saying it has harmed those seeking safety at the southern border.
“It is a failed policy no matter how you look at it, and keeping Title 42 in place is basically a guarantee of continued chaos, high repeat crossings, and continued inability to actively make the changes we need to make to our asylum system,” according to Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, senior policy counsel at the American Immigration Council.