A policy of expelling many migrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border cannot end on Monday as the Biden administration planned, a federal judge in Louisiana ruled Friday.
U.S. District Judge Robert Summerhays, who was appointed to the bench by former President Donald Trump, ruled that 24 states who sued the Biden administration over the planned end to Title 42 were likely to prevail on their claims that the administration didn’t follow proper procedure in bringing an end to a policy in place since March 2020. He issued a preliminary injunction blocking the end of Title 42 pending further court action.
In a statement, the Justice Department said it would appeal the ruling. White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre said: “The authority to set public health policy nationally should rest with the Centers for Disease Control, not with a single district court.”
Title 42 is a U.S. public health law that the Trump administration invoked to expel migrants during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Trump administration, and later the Biden administration, said the policy was necessary to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the United States.
But critics said the policy wasn’t necessary for public health efforts and said Title 42 greatly reduced access to asylum protections granted by U.S. law. They said the policy led to increased migrant encounters with Border Patrol agents because people expelled faced no legal consequences for repeatedly trying to enter the United States.
U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-El Paso, has been one of the leading congressional critics of Title 42.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott applauded the ruling and vowed to continue controversial state border enforcement efforts.
The Biden administration announced an end to Title 42 last month, with a target date of May 23. A group of 20 states filed a lawsuit in Louisiana to block the end of the policy, saying the change in policy would encourage more people to attempt to cross the border.
The Biden administration has acknowledged that the end of Title 42 — which is a public health law, not an immigration law — will lead to more people seeking to enter the United States through the Mexican border.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has said border enforcement agencies and others have developed plans for dealing with the expected increase in migration as Title 42 is lifted.
In El Paso, an increasing number of migrants have been released in recent weeks to Annunciation House, a faith-based organization that helps them with temporary shelter as they make travel arrangements to join family elsewhere in the United States.
On May 15, a group of more than 100 migrants was released at a Downtown El Paso bus station because Annunciation House didn’t have space in its network of shelters. It was the first time a large migrant group was released to the streets of El Paso since Christmas 2018.
Ruben Garcia, the founder and executive director of Annunciation House, has been urging city and county officials to ramp up efforts to care for the expected surge of migrants coming through El Paso.
The continuation of Title 42 may have limited impact on the recent increases in releases in El Paso. Mexico only will accept expulsions of its own nationals or people from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. Some countries will allow return of their nationals who have been expelled.
Many of the migrants crossing into El Paso in recent weeks have been from South America, Haiti, Turkey and other countries whose nationals aren’t regularly expelled under Title 42.
The City Council on Monday is slated to vote whether to approve an emergency ordinance declaring a humanitarian, security and economic crisis resulting from mass migration through El Paso.
The resolution states the city is “encountering the imminent threat of widespread injury or loss of life and property resulting from a surge in transient migrants traveling to the region during an ongoing global pandemic.”
The El Paso County Commissioners Court on Monday will again discuss the county’s role in mitigating the influx of migrants entering the community, as well as the allocation and reimbursement of funds.
Chief County Administrator Betsy Keller on Thursday said she’d also talk to officials at the Annunciation House, who had proposed the city, county and the Office of Emergency Management help manage its Casa del Refugiado shelter in East El Paso.