Title 42 expires: Supreme Court temporarily blocks lifting of pandemic-related restrictions on immigrants seeking asylum

WASHINGTON, DC– The Supreme Court is temporarily blocking an order that would lift pandemic-era restrictions on asylum-seekers, but the brief order leaves open the prospect that restrictions in place since the coronavirus pandemic began were used to turn away hundreds of thousands of asylum-seekers on Wednesday still expire.

The court’s decision comes as officials and aid groups along the border try to prepare for any changes that may or may not come on Wednesday.

In the city of El Paso, Mayor Oscar Leeser said they had received information from border police and shelters just across the border in Mexico that suggest as many as 20,000 migrants may be waiting to make their way to El Paso. The Red Cross brought 10,000 cots to help with the restock, he said.

Chief Justice John Roberts’ Monday order, which deals with emergencies coming from federal courts in the nation’s capital, comes as conservative states urge to comply with restrictions on asylum seekers put in place to curb the spread of COVID-19 19 contain. States appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court in a last-ditch effort before restrictions expire on Wednesday, saying lifting restrictions on asylum seekers would do irreparable harm to their states.

In the unilateral order, Roberts granted a stay pending further order and asked the government to respond by 5pm Tuesday. That’s just hours before the restrictions are due to expire on Wednesday.

Roberts’ order means the high-profile case, which has been under intense scrutiny at a time when Republicans are looking to take control of the House of Representatives and make immigration a key issue, will go down to the last detail.

Often referred to as Title 42, immigration restrictions were introduced under then-President Donald Trump in March 2020 and have blocked hundreds of thousands of migrants from seeking asylum in the United States in recent years. But as they phase out, thousands more migrants will be housed in temporary shelters on Mexico’s border with the United States

Conservative-minded states have argued that repealing Title 42 would lead to a surge in migrants entering their states and put a strain on state services such as health care or law enforcement. They also accuse the federal government of not having a plan to deal with an increase in migrants.

“The review by this court is warranted given the tremendous national importance of this case. There is no reasonable denying that failure to grant residency will cause an unprecedented calamity at the southern border,” the states wrote in their filing on Monday.

Immigration advocates have said that using Title 42 violates American and international obligations to people fleeing to the United States to avoid persecution. And they’ve argued that things like vaccines and treatments for the coronavirus have made the policy obsolete. They sued to end the use of Title 42; A federal judge sided with her in November, setting the deadline for December 21.

Immigration policy advocates have weighed Roberts’ order. In a statement, Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, the President and CEO of the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, called the decision “deeply regrettable”.

“The Biden administration must vigorously defend our humanitarian obligations in the face of politically motivated litigation. Title 42 has never been based on public health grounds,” Vignarajah said in a statement late Monday. “Title 42 has only fueled repeated attempts to cross the border and lined the pockets of cartel smugglers preying on vulnerable asylum seekers.”

In a statement late Monday, the Department of Homeland Security, which is responsible for enforcing border security, said people who attempt to enter the United States “illegally” will be deported to Mexico as Title 42 is still in effect.

“While this phase of the litigation proceeds, we will continue our preparations to manage the border in a safe, orderly and humane manner when Public Health Order Title 42 is repealed,” the statement said.

Ahead of the end of Title 42, administration officials said they had brought more resources to the southern border, including more border patrol clearance coordinators, more surveillance and increased security at ports of entry. According to the White House, around 23,000 agents are currently stationed at the southern border.

Before the Supreme Court weighed in, White House officials stressed Monday that the administration is bound by a court order to overturn the pandemic-era border policy, despite pushes from Republicans and some Congressional Democrats to extend it.

“The removal of Title 42 does not mean the border is open,” said White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.

Jean-Pierre said the administration has “additional solid planning underway” and urged Congress to approve an additional $3.5 billion in funding for DHS as lawmakers continue to weigh details for a massive year-end spending bill haggles.

This money for the DHS would expand transportation capacity, allowing migrants to either be taken to less crowded border facilities or quickly removed if they are not legally permitted to stay. It would also fund more detention facilities, speed up the processing of asylum applications and hire 300 additional border guards.

In border communities, officials and relief groups have also been preparing for the end of Title 42, at a time when temperatures are expected to plummet as an Arctic blast sweeps south.

The highest elected official in Hidalgo County, Judge Richard Cortez, said in the Texas border community of McAllen Border Patrol, agents met with city and county officials, including in Mexico, to prepare for an influx of migrants crossing the border to the title 42 cross policy ends. He worries about where migrants can sleep or get a hot meal and making sure the US-Mexico bridge stays open to commercial traffic.

“If they get overwhelmed at the ports of entry, they will just let them go … and where will they sleep at night, where will they eat? It just puts us in an unknown situation. What are we preparing for?” he said. “We’ll do our best. I don’t know why Congress didn’t sit down and try to improve the situation.”


Associated Press reporters Seung Min Kim in Washington and Sean Murphy in Oklahoma City contributed to this report

SEE PREVIOUS REPORT: US Circuit Court of Appeals refuses to uphold pandemic-related restrictions on immigrants seeking asylum

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https://abc7.com/supreme-court-temporarily-blocks-lifting-asylum-restrictions-title-42-immigration-border-policy/12591080/ Title 42 expires: Supreme Court temporarily blocks lifting of pandemic-related restrictions on immigrants seeking asylum

Laura Coffey

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