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.
"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.
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.
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.