Federal judge keeps temporary block on Title 42 in place as next steps remain in limbo

LAFAYETTE, La. – A federal judge on Friday declined to issue an immediate ruling on whether the Biden administration can rescind COVID-related restrictions that prevent immigrants from requesting asylum in the U.S. 

U.S. District Judge Robert Summerhays of Louisiana said he would leave in place the Trump-era policy for now while he weighs a legal challenge filed by more than 20 states seeking to bar the White House from rescinding the so-called Title 42 policy.

Summerhays said he would issue a ruling before May 23, the date the Biden administration set for lifting the asylum restrictions. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced in April the policy would be rescinded on May 23, saying it is “no longer necessary” after “considering current public health conditions and an increased availability of tools to fight COVID-19.”

What is the Title 42?:Why Republicans, some Democrats want it to stay

Title 42, a public health order issued by the Trump administration, allows Customs and Border Protection to expel migrants to Mexico or back to their home countries to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in holding facilities. President Joe Biden kept the policy in place for more than a year, despite fierce objections from immigration activists.  

Arizona, Louisiana and Missouri led the coalition of states challenging the Biden administration’s effort to lift Title 42. They argued that  their states’ healthcare, law enforcement and education systems would be overly burdened by an influx of undocumented  immigrants if the public health restriction is lifted. 

In his arguments before Summerhays, Arizona Deputy Solicitor General Drew Ensign said the CDC didn’t consider those factors before deciding to lift Title 42.

He also said the CDC didn’t meet the notice-and-comment requirements under federal law.

Border preparations:Ahead of Title 42 ending, Border Patrol prepares for the return of asylum

Jean Lin, who represented the defendants, argued the CDC is allowed to end Title 42 because it was enacted as part of a public health response to the COVID-19 pandemic and not part of immigration policy. Ending Title 42 is at the discretion of the CDC director, she said. 

She also said the Trump-era order was a short-term policy and wasn’t required to have a notice-and-comment period. 

Summerhays late last month ordered a temporary restraining order for two weeks blocking the Biden administration from ending the policy before May 23. This week, Summerhays extended the temporary restraining order until May 23 or until a preliminary injunction ruling was issued.

More than 1 million people were expelled under Title 42 in fiscal year 2021. 

Biden administration officials have said they are preparing for an increased number of people coming to the U.S.-Mexico border after the policy ends. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has laid out a six-point plan to address the expected increase, including sending more personnel to the border.

Reach Rebecca Morin at Twitter @RebeccaMorin_

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