Migrants wait to be processed by Border Patrol agents in Eagle Pass, Texas. Dario Lopez-Mills/AP
A Trump-appointed federal judge in Louisiana issued a ruling on Friday afternoon blocking the Biden administration from winding down an infamous policy that summarily expels migrants arriving at the border. Title 42 relied on a pandemic-era public health order to effectively seal off the southern border for most asylum seekers and migrants. The federal judge’s decision, which comes in a case brought by 24 states led by Republican attorney generals, effectively allows the policy to remain in place indefinitely despite the federal government’s plans to terminate it by May 23. The ruling is yet another stark example of how states are using the courts to dictate federal immigration policy.
Earlier this month, my colleague Fernanda Echavarri wrote about how border cities were already preparing for the termination of Title 42:
Their preparations are moving forward even as a federal judge is expected to rule—perhaps as soon as the end of the week—on whether Title 42 will actually end as scheduled. If the judge doesn’t intervene and the policy is lifted as planned on May 23, it would not constitute a new asylum policy; rather the shift would bring things back to pre-pandemic operations for asylum seekers at the border.
“We anxiously await and are eagerly preparing for the full termination of Title 42,” says Kate Clark, senior director of immigration services at Jewish Family Service of San Diego, a group that has been instrumental in assisting asylum seekers for years. “For too long, thousands of vulnerable families and individuals in desperate need of protection have been left with no relief or their ability to exercise their lawful right to seek asylum in the US.”
In early April, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention determined that the “current public health conditions and an increased availability of tools to fight COVID-19” made the public health order allowing the expulsion of migrants no longer necessary. Public health experts and immigrant rights advocates had long argued that the policy had no scientific basis—but that didn’t stop the Trump and Biden administrations from using it as a tool to stop migration.