The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) cannot move forward with a plan to halt pandemic-related emergency rules that allow US border agents to quickly deport migrants to Mexico or their country of origin for public health reasons, a Louisiana federal judge ruled Friday. .
Judge Robert Summerhays of the U.S. District Court in Lafayette, Louisiana, issued a preliminary injunction preventing the Biden administration from ending the restrictions, known as theon May 23, when the CDC had planned to no longer allow border deportations.
Consistent with arguments made by Republican attorneys general who sued the Biden administration, Summerhays, an appointee of former President Donald Trump, said the CDC improperly terminated Title 42, a health authority enacted during World War II.
In its 47-page decision, Summerhays said the CDC should have allowed the public to comment on Title 42’s termination before finalizing it. “Put simply, the CDC has not explained how the current circumstances prevented it from issuing the termination order through the required notice and comment process,” he wrote.
If upheld, Summerhays’ decision will require the CDC to continue allowing border deportations for some time, as the notice and comment process for federal regulations typically takes months.
CDC officials did not respond to a request for comment on Friday’s court order. In a statement Friday, the Justice Department said it plans to appeal Summerhays’ decision, saying the CDC’s decision to terminate Title 42 was a “lawful exercise” of its authority.
“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has invoked its authority under Title 42 because of the unprecedented dangers to public health caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,” the Department of Justice said. “The CDC has now determined, based on its expert opinion, that continued reliance on this authority is no longer warranted in light of current public health circumstances.”
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said on Friday that “the power to set public health policy at the national level should rest with the Centers for Disease Control, not a single district court,” but noted that US border officials would continue deportations to comply with the ruling. Officials will also continue to prepare for the “possible lifting” of Title 42, added Jean-Pierre.
Prior to Friday’s decision, Summerhays had already issued a temporary restraining order prohibiting the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) from beginning to phase out Title 42 before the May 23 termination date.
Since March 2020, migrants have been deported more than 1.9 million times from the US-Mexico border under Title 42, which denies them the ability to seek asylum, a right guaranteed by US law and the treaty. International Refugee Agency, according to government figures.
The Trump administration has argued that Title 42 allows the United States to suspend these legal humanitarian obligations during a global pandemic, saying deportations of migrants and asylum seekers were necessary to control the spread of COVID-19 in inside border facilities.
The Biden administration has used the same argument for more than a year, using Title 42 longer and more often than the Trump administration, carrying out more than 1.4 million migrant deportations, a data analysis shows. from US Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
But in early April, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said deportations were no longer necessary to curb the spread of the coronavirus due to improving pandemic conditions, including higher vaccination rates in the United States and in Latin America.
Friday’s ruling is a victory for more than 20 states led by Republican attorneys general from Arizona, Louisiana and Missouri who have filed a lawsuit challenging the CDC’s decision to end Title 42.
The coalition of states argued that an expected increase in the number of migrants released from U.S. border guards after Title 42 was halted would hurt them financially, citing the costs of education and other social services.
While many Democrats and progressive activists welcomed the decision to end Title 42, the move raised concerns among centrist Democrats, some of whom joined Republicans in supporting a Congressional proposal that would force the CDC to continue deportations. until the national emergency over COVID-19 is lifted.
Migrant arrests along the U.S. southern border have reached record highs over the past year, fueled in part by the spike in repeated crossing attempts by some adult migrants trying to re-enter the United States. United after being deported to Mexico under Title 42.
U.S. border agents arrested migrants 1.3 million times in fiscal year 2022, which began in October, putting that tally on track to surpass the record 1.7 million migrant arrests reported in the U.S. in fiscal year 2021, according to CBP data.
In an interview with CBS News earlier this week, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said Title 42 deportations have led to some migrants crossing the border “again and again” because they are not subject to the same penalties, such as multi-year banishments from the United States, like traditional deportations.
Mayorkas said the “historic number” of illegal crossings along the US-Mexico border could be reduced through criminal prosecution of people who cross repeatedly, expedited deportations of migrants who do not ask or are not not eligible for U.S. humanitarian protection and a rule to expedite asylum applications. Processing.
“We have a number of efforts underway to make sure people don’t take the dangerous journey, don’t put their lives in the hands of smuggler operators,” Mayorkas said during his visit to McAllen, in Texas on Tuesday.
Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, one of the officials who filed a lawsuit against the termination of Title 42, welcomed Friday’s decision. “Title 42 is one of the last tools we have left in our toolbox to stop an even greater flow of illegal immigration into our country,” Brnovich said. mentioned.
Advocates for asylum seekers criticized the court order, calling Title 42 a Trump-era relic designed to prevent migrants fleeing violence from seeking U.S. humanitarian protection.
“Hypocritically, the states that filed this lawsuit apparently only care about COVID restrictions when they implicate asylum seekers and use the case as an obvious attempt to enact immigration restrictions,” he said. said Lee Gelernt, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union challenging Title 42 in a separate court case.