A federal judge on Wednesday ordered a two-week halt to the easing of pandemic-enforced asylum restrictions, raising questions about the Biden administration’s plan to fully lift those restrictions on May 23.
For now, the decision is only a temporary setback for the government. However, the judge took a very favorable position on Louisiana, Arizona and 19 other states that sued to preserve the authority of Title 42, which denies immigrants the possibility of applying for asylum on the grounds of preventing the spread of COVID-19. .
“(The states) have established that there is a substantial threat of immediate and irreparable harm resulting” from the lifting of Title 42, including sunk costs in health care, law enforcement, detention, education and other services for migrants, the judge wrote. of Robert Summerhays District in Lafayette, Louisiana.
Summerhays, who was appointed by former President Donald Trump, said the states are likely to succeed in arguing that the administration failed to adhere to federal procedures when it announced April 1 that it was ending Title 42 authority.
The judge has scheduled a crucial hearing for May 13 in Lafayette to hear arguments on whether to stop Title 42 from ending as scheduled 10 days later.
Texas filed a similar lawsuit Friday in federal court in Victoria, Texas.
The decision to end the authority of Title 42 was made by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It has come under increasing criticism from elected officials in the Democratic Party, to which Biden belongs, who say the administration is unprepared for an expected surge in asylum seekers.
The Justice Department declined to comment on the order, but the administration has said it will comply, though it says it will hinder preparations for Title 42 to end on May 23.
Approximately 14% of single adults from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador were processed under immigration law during a seven-day period that ended last Thursday. This figure is up from 5% in March, according to government figures.
Summerhays’ order requires the Department of Homeland Security to “return to the policies and practices that were in place” before plans to end Title 42 were announced and to provide weekly reports showing that it is acting “in good faith.”
Migrants have been expelled more than 1.8 million times under the rule invoked in March 2020 by the Trump administration. Migrants were stopped more than 221,000 times at the border with Mexico in March, the most in 22 years, raising concerns about the government’s ability to handle an even higher number when Title 42 is lifted.
Advocates for asylum seekers say the restrictions endanger people fleeing persecution at home and violate the right to seek protection enshrined in US law and international treaties.
As the CDC acknowledged, the public health justification for maintaining the order has weakened as the threat of COVID-19 has diminished.
In two hearings on Wednesday, the Secretary of National Security, Alejandro Mayorkas, tried to defend the government’s handling of the increase in the arrival of migrants at the southwestern border and its plans to face the possibility that they arrive even after the potential end of Title 42.
Mayorkas sought to rebut Republican accusations that the Biden administration has encouraged irregular migration by allowing some people to apply for asylum, blaming economic and political turmoil and violence across Latin America and the world.
“Some of the causes of irregular migration have only been increased by the years of suffering that precede this administration,” he said.
Mayorkas testified a day after the Department of Homeland Security released a plan with more details about how it was preparing for the end of Title 42 authority.
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