LAFAYETTE, La. – Lawyers from 24 states critical of the Biden administration’s immigration policies called for a nationwide injunction to enforce the rapid deportation of migrants as part of a pandemic-related public policy on Friday, and a federal judge said he plans to had previously issued an order to repeal the policy on May 23.
Judge Robert R. Summerhays of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana has not said how he would govern, but rather has supported arguments advanced by the 24 largely Republican-led states to support the measure, known as title, to enforce. 42, to stay in place.
Louisiana Deputy Solicitor General Scott St. John said after the hearing that he had “confidence” based on the judge’s comments at the hearing that the states that had sued were “in a good position.”
Mary Yanik, an attorney for the Tulane Immigration Rights Clinic, said Judge Summerhays’ stance appeared consistent during the more than two-hour hearing in Lafayette, La.
“The judge seemed skeptical that this is a purely public health order,” she said. “And he doesn’t seem convinced that the federal government can ignore the consequences of immigration.”
Most of the key lawyers in the case declined to comment after the arguments.
At stake is whether the Biden administration can proceed with its announced plans to lift Title 42 given the recent easing of the coronavirus pandemic, a move that sees thousands of migrants a day currently being turned away from the country instead. can enter and submit asylum applications.
The Department of Homeland Security has said it was preparing for the possibility of 18,000 migrants showing up daily once the measure is lifted, compared to 8,000 currently. State leaders who filed the lawsuit said local officials are unprepared for such an influx at a time when migration on the southern border is already hitting record highs.
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About two million people have been deported under the order since March 2020, many of whom would otherwise have been admitted to the United States for an asylum assessment or placed under deportation proceedings. These processes often take months or years.
The judge has already issued a temporary restraining order, which was extended this week, forbidding the government to take steps to settle the policy before ruling on the case.
The arguments put forward by both sides at Friday’s hearing centered on whether Title 42 was a public health policy or an immigration policy. Federal government attorneys continued to argue that the policy was narrowly limited to protecting against coronavirus transmission, while attorneys for the suing states listed the costs states would bear if Title 42 were lifted — for health care systems, law enforcement, education, social services, and even agencies that would issue more driver’s licenses.
The Biden administration has said its plans to lift the measure were based on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s announcement on April 1 that it was no longer necessary given the widespread availability of vaccines.
“The CDC did exactly what an agency should do,” Jean Lin, a lawyer representing the federal government, told the judge, noting that the agency reassessed virus conditions in the country every 60 days. Dealing with “downstream effects of Title 42 is beyond the legal purview of the CDC,” she said.
The public health order requires the U.S. border patrol to expel migrants who have crossed national borders since March 2020, when it was introduced, without allowing them to apply for asylum, by taking them either by bus to Mexico or by plane to their homes. to expel the country of origin.
Two days after the CDC announcement, Arizona, Louisiana and Missouri filed a lawsuit in federal court to uphold the policy, arguing that its termination would cause them irreparable harm. They were later joined by 21 other states.
The judge on Friday rejected a motion by a family seeking asylum on the California-Mexico border and a nonprofit to join the lawsuit to argue that, should the judge rule that Title 42 remains, his ruling only applies to states that are part of the lawsuit.
That would theoretically allow the administration to accept asylum seekers in several border states, including California, New Mexico, Washington, Minnesota, Michigan, Vermont and New York. North Dakota and Idaho were the only northern border states to join the process; on the southern border, Texas and Arizona were part of the lawsuit.
“Texas and Arizona should not be allowed to dictate immigration policies for the entire country,” said Talia Inlender, deputy director of the Center for Immigration Law and Policy at UCLA School of Law, which represents the asylum-seeker’s family and organization. advised. †
“We remain hopeful that should the judge issue an injunction to keep Title 42 in place, it will limit it to the states filing charges,” she said.
Republicans campaigning on immigration and moderate Democrats facing tight races in November’s midterm elections have called for title 42 to be held in place, citing the potential for overcrowding and unrest on the southern border.
Republican lawmakers have called for a vote on an amendment that would preserve the policy, which has already held up a separate Covid-19 aid package.
Eileen Sullivan and Emily Cochrane reporting contributed. Susan C. Beachy research contributed.