Pandemic-era asylum limits in the hands of a federal judge

A federal judge hears arguments Friday about whether the Biden administration can lift pandemic-related restrictions on immigrants seeking asylum later this month.

LAFAYETTE, La. (AP) — An attorney representing 24 states on Friday urged a federal judge to block the Biden administration’s plans to lift pandemic-related restrictions on migrants seeking asylum, saying the decision was made without sufficiently considering the effects that the measure could have on public health and law enforcement.

Drew Ensign, an attorney for the state of Arizona, told U.S. District Judge Summerhays that the lawsuit filed by Arizona, Louisiana and 22 other states to block the plan was “not about the political wisdom” behind the announcement to end the plan. on May 23.

But, Ensign said, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention did not follow proper administrative procedures that require public notification and collection of comments on the decision to end restrictions imposed under what is known as the authority of Title 42. The result, he said, was that due consideration was not given to the likely resulting increases in border crossings and their potential effects, including strain on state health care systems and diversion of police resources from drug interdiction to control of illegal crossings.

The Justice Department’s Jean Lin argued that the CDC was within its authority to lift an emergency health restriction that it felt was no longer necessary. She said the order was a matter of health policy, not immigration.

“There is no basis for using Title 42 as a safety valve,” Lin told Summerhays.

Summerhays gave no indication of when he would rule, but noted that time is short and told the attorneys they did not need to file post-argument briefs. In addition to deciding whether to block the policy, he will also decide whether his ruling applies nationally or to specific states.

So far, Summehays’ rulings have heavily favored those challenging the administration.

Migrants have been expelled more than 1.8 million times since March 2020 under the federal authority of Title 42, which has denied them the opportunity to apply for asylum under US law and international treaty in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

On April 1, the CDC announced it was ending Title 42 authority, but giving border authorities nearly two months to prepare. The decision drew criticism from Republicans and some Democrats who fear the administration is unprepared for a widely anticipated influx of immigrants.

Arizona, Louisiana and Missouri quickly sued and were later joined by other states in the legal challenge being heard Friday. Texas had sued independently, but last week joined the lawsuit led by Arizona along with North Dakota and Virginia.

After the administration acknowledged last month that it had already begun to phase out the pandemic restriction by processing more immigrants under immigration law instead of Title 42, Summerhays ordered the removal to stop.

Appointed by then-President Donald Trump, Summerhays wrote last month that removing restrictions by May 23 would inflict “sunk costs on health care, law enforcement, detention, education and other services” on states seeking to keep the current policy.

He also said the administration likely did not follow federal rulemaking procedures in planning to end the policy on May 23. Friday’s arguments concerned whether to keep the restrictions in place beyond that date while the litigation progresses.

Several immigrant advocacy groups have called on Summerhays to at least allow Title 42 to be lifted as planned in California and New Mexico, two border states that have not challenged the administration’s decision.

On the other hand, Congress has presented another potential roadblock to ending Title 42. Several moderate Democrats have joined Republicans in expressing concern that authorities are unprepared for the influx of immigrants.

A large number of illegal crossings has encouraged some Republicans to try to make the border and immigration an election year issue. US authorities detained immigrants more than 221,000 times at the border with Mexico in March, the most in 22 years. Many of them repeatedly crossed because Title 42 carries no legal or criminal consequences.

US authorities say they are preparing for up to 18,000 crossings a day, up from a daily average of about 7,100 in March.

The authority of Title 42 has been applied unevenly across nationalities. Mexico agreed to receive back migrants from Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Mexico, and a limited number from Cuba and Nicaragua. High costs, strained diplomatic relations and other considerations have made it harder to get immigrants out of other countries, who must be brought home.

Title 42 is one of two major surviving Trump-era policies to deter asylum at the border.

Last month, the US Supreme Court heard arguments on whether to allow the administration to force asylum seekers to wait in Mexico for US immigration court hearings. That case originated before another appointed judge. by Trump, in Amarillo, Texas.

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Fixed the number of states now participating in the lawsuit.

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