Washington – A federal judge on Tuesday barred federal immigration officials from calling a public health agencyQuickly deport migrants and block the main tool the Biden administration has used to manage an unprecedented wave of migration along the US-Mexico border.
Judge Emmet Sullivan of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia reversed a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) order that allowed U.S. border officials to expel hundreds of thousands of migrants on public health grounds, saying the edict was not implemented correctly.
First enacted in 2020 by the Trump administration at the dawn of the coronavirus pandemic, the Title 42 policy draws on a late 19th-century law designed to prevent the “introduction” of contagious diseases into the United States. Migrants treated under Title 42 are not allowed to apply for US asylum and instead are summarily expelled from the country.
Tuesday is The ruling follows a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which argues that Title 42 puts migrants at risk and violates US asylum laws. Migrants on US soil, including those crossing the border illegally, are allowed to apply for humanitarian protection.
“This decision is of tremendous importance to asylum seekers and will hopefully put an end to the abuse of public health laws to prevent desperate people from seeking shelter,” Lee Gelernt, the ACLU attorney who filed the lawsuit, told CBS News .
CBS News has reached out to the Department of Homeland Security and Justice, which could ask an appeals court to stay Tuesday’s ruling. Sullivan said he will not suspend his decision pending appeal.
Later Tuesday, attorneys for the Biden administration asked Sullivan to stay his decision for 5 weeks until Dec. 21, citing operational concerns about the abrupt termination of Title 42 and the need for an “orderly transition” to regular immigration processing.
“This transition period is critical to ensure that DHS can continue to fulfill its mission of securing the nation’s borders and properly conducting its border operations,” the Justice Department attorneys wrote.
In a 49-page statement, Sullivan said he found the Title 42 policy to be “arbitrary and capricious” and violate the federal administration statute, which governs regulations. He said the CDC failed to properly explain the reasons for approving an unprecedented expulsion agency, as opposed to implementing less drastic measures to mitigate COVID concerns, like vaccinations and monoclonal antibodies.
Sullivan also said that the CDC “did not consider the harm to migrants who are subject to deportation,” citing reports warning that migrants in Mexico and elsewhere could face persecution or other harassment after they get out of the USA had been expelled
“It is unreasonable to assume that the CDC can ignore the consequences of any actions it takes to achieve its goals, particularly when those actions included the extraordinary decision to suspend the codified procedural and substantive rights of non-citizens in search of a safe haven.” ‘ wrote Sullivan.
After deportations continued for over a year, the Biden administration announced the termination of Title 42 in April, citing improving pandemic conditions. But through a separate lawsuit, a coalition of Republican-led states persuaded a federal judge in Louisiana to stop the termination.
While appealing that ruling, the Biden administration has continued to rely heavily on Title 42 as border management policy in the face of record numbers of migrant arrests along the southern border. It also recently expanded border deportations to stop Venezuelan migrants from entering the US illegally.
In fiscal year 2022, which ended Sept. 30, U.S. officials stopped migrants along the southern border nearly 2.4 million times, the highest annual number on record. Over 1 million of those encounters with migrants resulted in their Title 42 deportation, federal statistics show.
On paper, Title 42 applies to both the land borders with Canada and Mexico and to migrants of all nationalities, but it was used primarily along the southern border to send adult Mexican and Central American migrants back to Mexico or the Northern Triangle region of Central America from Guatemala , Honduras and El Salvador.
For diplomatic and logistical reasons, the US has not extensively used Title 42 to expel migrants of other nationalities. One exception was an air deportation to Haiti in the fall of 2021 following the sudden arrival of thousands of Haitian migrants in Del Rio, Texas.
For more than two years, Mexico only allowed the US to deport Mexican and Central American migrants to its territory. But in October Mexico announced it would accept the deportation of Venezuelans as part of a broader strategy that included US agreement to allow up to 24,000 Venezuelans to enter the country legally.
While the Trump and Biden administrations have both presented the Title 42 directive as a tool to reduce coronavirus outbreaks at border patrol facilities, its public health rationale has been disputed by public health experts, including CDC officials, who object to it implementation of the directive.