A federal judge has blocked the Biden administration from ending Title 42, a border policy that has enabled border authorities to quickly expel illegal immigrants at the southern U.S. border back to Mexico on public health grounds amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a 47-page ruling on Friday, Judge Robert Summerhays in Louisiana granted a nationwide injunction to block the termination of Title 42, saying the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) move to terminate the policy didn’t comply with the Administrative Procedure Act that requires public notice and time to gather public comment on the plan.
“Simply put, the CDC has not explained how the present circumstances prevented the CDC from issuing the Termination Order through the required notice and comment process under the [Administrative Procedure Act],” Summerhays wrote. The notice and comment process can potentially take months to complete.
“Given the impact of the Termination Order on the Plaintiff States and their showing that the CDC did not comply with the [Administrative Procedure Act], the Court concludes that the public interest would be served by a preliminary injunction preventing the termination of the CDC’s Title 42 Orders,” the ruling reads.
The ruling means the CDC is blocked from terminating Title 42, and the policy will remain in place amid ongoing litigation until a final decision is made on the merits of the case. The full trial is likely to take many months.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) said it will appeal the latest ruling.
“The [CDC] invoked its authority under Title 42 due to the unprecedented public-health dangers caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. CDC has now determined, in its expert opinion, that continued reliance on this authority is no longer warranted in light of the current public-health circumstances. That decision was a lawful exercise of CDC’s authority,” spokesman Anthony Coley said in a statement. “The Department of Justice intends to appeal the court’s decision in Louisiana et al. v. CDC et al.
The White House said it disagreed with the court’s ruling, but would comply with it pending the DOJ’s appeal.
“The authority to set public health policy nationally should rest with the Centers for Disease Control, not with a single district court,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement.
Since Title 42’s implementation in March 2020 under the Trump administration, border agents have been able to turn illegal immigrants away from the southern U.S. border over 1.9 million times without giving them a chance to seek asylum.
The CDC had announced on April 1 it would end the emergency border powers on May 23, citing declining cases of COVID-19 and increased availability of vaccines and therapeutics.
Prior to the CDC’s announcement, White House director of communications Kate Bedingfield said that ending Title 42 would result in an expected “influx of people to the border.”
The CDC decision prompted 24 states, led by the attorneys general of Arizona, Louisiana, and Missouri, to file a lawsuit on April 4, seeking an injunction to keep the policy in place. The states, all with Republican attorneys general, argued in part that the termination of Title 42 would “induce a significant increase of illegal immigration into the United States, with many migrants asserting non-meritorious asylum claims.”
Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich on Twitter called the ruling by Summerhays a “great win.”
Republicans and some Democrats in Congress had criticized the CDC’s decision to lift Title 42 over the likelihood of higher migrant crossings, saying the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was not prepared to handle the increased migrant numbers.
DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas had said on May 1 the agency was preparing for a possible flood of U.S.-bound immigrants at the southern border, saying there could be as many as 18,000 migrants a day if Title 42 is terminated.
Meanwhile, the United Nations and other Democrats previously said the Title 42 expulsions put vulnerable migrants in danger and were not based on science.
A separate court ruling blocks the Biden administration from expelling families to places where they could be persecuted or tortured.
In April, border agents encountered more than 234,000 attempts by migrants to cross the southern border, marking a new monthly record, according to latest data from the DHS.
Reuters contributed to this report.