U.S. Court Maintains Title 42 Requiring Migrants to Stay at Mexican Border

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U.S. Court Maintains Title 42 Requiring Migrants to Stay at Mexican Border

The U.S. Supreme Court said on Tuesday it would keep in place the controversial Title 42, a pandemic-era law that allows U.S. authorities to quickly expel migrants from various countries to Mexico, where they have been trapped for many months.

The judiciary said it will consider whether 19 states could challenge the end of the rule, which has crowded migrants at the border with the Latin American country.

“My heart hurts that we have to keep waiting, I had hopes that soon I would be able to cross,” Miguel Colmenares, a Venezuelan migrant who is in the Mexican border city of Tijuana, said upon learning of the resolution.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do, I don’t have money anymore and my family is waiting for me,” he added.

In a 5-4 vote, the U.S. court granted a request by a group of Republican state attorneys general to suspend a judge’s decision invalidating the emergency order, known as Title 42, while it considers whether they could intervene to challenge the ruling.

States had argued that lifting the law could lead to an increase in border crossings, which are already at record levels.

U.S. President Joe Biden said later Tuesday that the Supreme Court won’t rule until June on the law.

“The court is not going to decide until June, apparently, and in the meantime we have to apply it. I think it’s something that should have been done,” Biden told reporters at the White House.

On December 19, the president of the Supreme Court of the United States, John Roberts, a member of the conservative majority of this court (6-3), agreed to maintain the law of the era of former President Donald Trump, in force since March 2020, while the institution considered extending it for a longer time. Prior to this decision, the law expired on December 21.

Conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch joined the three liberal members of the court — Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Ketanji Brown Jackson — in dissenting from the order leaving Title 42 in place that Gorsuch called “reckless.”

He questioned why the court was rushing to hear a dispute related to “emergency decrees that have survived their useful life,” and said the only plausible reason was because states argued the rule would help mitigate a “migration crisis.”

Biden maintained the restrictions for more than a year after taking office in 2021 despite promising to walk away from the strict immigration policies adopted by former President Donald Trump.

U.S. Border Patrol agents apprehended a record 2.2 million migrants at the southwest border in fiscal year 2022, which ended Sept. 30. About half of the detainees were promptly removed under Title 42.

The current US administration tried to lift Title 42 after the country’s health authorities said in April that the law was no longer necessary to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but they were blocked by a federal judge in Louisiana – appointed by Trump – in response to a Republican-led legal challenge.

Enrique Lucero, director of migrant care in Tijuana, said keeping Title 42 “doesn’t make sense,” noting that the city has a large backlog of U.S. asylum seekers.

“That measure has to go away sooner or later,” Lucero said.

Mexico’s foreign ministry (SRE) told Reuters it had no immediate comment on the U.S. court’s decision.

A group of asylum-seeking migrants represented by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sued the US government for this policy, arguing that expulsions to Mexico exposed them to serious harm, such as kidnappings or assaults, and a judge ruled them right.

Washington, D.C., District Judge Emmet Sullivan ruled in favor of immigrants on Nov. 15, ruling that Title 42, which has been used to expel hundreds of thousands of people since its inception, was illegal, and gave the government until Dec. 21 to prepare for the rule to end.

Unhappy with the lower court’s decision, a group of Republican state attorneys general tried to step in to continue defending the policy in court. On December 16, a federal appeals court denied them intervention and put Sullivan’s order on hold, so they took the matter to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“It’s disappointing that President Biden’s administration is willing to sacrifice the safety of American families for political reasons,” said Arizona Republican Attorney General Mark Brnovich, who is leading the defense of Title 42.

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