Judge to block U.S. border officials from winding down Title 42 policy


▶ Watch Video: U.S. plans to lift COVID-19 border expulsion policy known as Title 42

A federal judge in Louisiana on Monday said he would grant a motion to bar the Biden administration from immediately winding down an emergency pandemic-related border restriction that has allowed U.S. immigration officials to quickly expel migrants.

U.S. District Judge Robert Summerhays, an appointee of former President Donald Trump who is overseeing the suit brought by 21 Republican-led states, said in a notice that he had agreed to issue a temporary restraining order blocking officials from terminating the rule known as Title 42, which is set to end on May 23.

It’s not yet clear if the order will block the administration from ending Title 42 on May 23, or if it will only prohibit them from starting to wind down the policy before then.

Summerhays, a judge on the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana, held a status conference on the case on Monday afternoon. The status conference was closed to the press.

“For the reasons stated on the record, the Court announced its intent to grant the motion,” the judge said in a summary of the hearing. “The parties will confer regarding the specific terms to be contained in the Temporary Restraining Order and attempt to reach agreement.”

Since its inception in March 2020, the Title 42 authority has allowed U.S. authorities along the Mexican border to expel migrants over 1.8 million times to Mexico or their home countries without allowing them to seek asylum, which is generally required by U.S. law, government data show.

While it reversed other Trump-era border restrictions, the Biden administration continued Title 42 for over a year, arguing the quick expulsions were necessary to control the transmission of COVID-19 inside migrant processing facilities.

But earlier in April, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published an order saying the agency no longer believed the expulsions were needed to protect public health. The CDC said it would stop authorizing Title 42 on May 23 to give border officials time to make preparations.

The CDC announcement alarmed Republicans and some moderate Democratic lawmakers, who have expressed doubts about the Department of Homeland Security’s ability to deal with a likely spike in migrant arrivals after Title 42 is lifted.

Last week, the 21 states suing the administration, led by Arizona, Louisiana and Missouri, said border officials had already started to wind down Title 42 and asked Summerhays to issue a temporary restraining order “against any implementation of the Termination Order before its May 23 effective date.”

Representatives for DHS did not respond to requests to comment on Monday’s development. A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment.

In an interview with CBS News last week, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas rebuffed criticism that his department has not been adequately preparing for Title 42’s termination. He cited the deployment of additional personnel to the southern border, the expansion of migrant transportation assets and the establishment of processing facilities.

“The assertion that we do not have plans is an assertion that is not grounded in fact,” Mayorkas said. “We have been planning for months to address increases in migration; those that we already have experienced and those that we might experience upon an end to Title 42.”

Editors note: This story was updated to clarify the issue the judge’s temporary restraining order is expected to address.

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