A federal judge on Thursday ordered the Biden administration to stop using a public health law invoked at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic to expel families of migrants with children from the US-Mexico border.
Judge Emmet Sullivan of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia has certified all migrant families detained at the U.S. border as group members in a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, and banned the government to deport them under the public health edict, known as Title 42.
Sullivan suspended his order for 14 days, giving the Biden administration two weeks to reorganize its use of the authority of Title 42, which was first invoked under former President Donald Trump in March 2020.
Last year, the ACLU also convinced Sullivan to ban the Trump administration from using the Title 42 policy to deport unaccompanied children, who enjoy special protections under US law.
As in his decision last year, Sullivan wrote in a 58 page review Thursday that the 19th century public health law cited by the government does not allow the deportation of migrants.
The deportation of asylum seekers, Sullivan wrote, denies them “the ability to seek humanitarian benefits” enshrined in US law.
While the Biden administration continued to use the authority of Title 42 to deport hundreds of thousands of migrants to Mexico, it exempted unaccompanied children from the policy. It has also expelled a smaller percentage of families than the Trump administration, largely due to Mexico’s reluctance to accept young non-Mexican children.
In August, US authorities along the southern border deported 16,200 parents and children traveling with families under Title 42, according to government data. About 80% of migrant families taken into police custody in the United States last month have been processed under immigration laws and allowed to seek asylum.
During President Biden’s first months in office, his administration relied on an order from the Trump-era Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to justify border deportations. In early August, however, the CDC issued a new order stating that deportations must continue due to the threat posed by the Delta variant and the 21-year record of migrant arrests.
Thursday’s decision is the latest legal setback in the Biden administration’s border policy, which has been criticized by both Republicans and progressive activists.
Last month, a Texas federal judge order administration to restore the Trump-era policy of forcing asylum seekers to wait in Mexico while their court cases are in effect. Because the Supreme Court refuse To suspend this order, US border officials are working to revive the program, known as “Stay in Mexico.”
The Homeland Security Department, which carries out Title 42 evictions, referred questions about Thursday’s decision to the Justice Department, which declined to comment.
Advocates for asylum seekers have urged the government to accept Sullivan’s decision.
“We hope the Biden administration does not intend to appeal and continue to put families at grave risk,” Lee Gelernt, the ACLU’s leading lawyer, told CBS News. legal challenge against evictions.
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