The Biden administration has been temporarily barred by a federal judge from ending the pandemic health policy known as Title 42 on May 23.
The move delays what Homeland Security officials predicted would prompt an unprecedented rush of migrants to the U.S.-Mexico border and is a major win for the three Republican states that brought the lawsuit in early April, which 18 other states have since joined.
“In a lawsuit originally filed by Missouri, Louisiana, and Arizona, our Office just obtained a temporary restraining order to keep Title 42 in place. This is a huge victory for border security, but the fight continues on,” Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt wrote in a post on Twitter Monday afternoon.
“We applaud the court for approving our request for a temporary restraining order to keep Title 42 in place. The Biden administration cannot continue in flagrant disregard for existing law and required administrative procedures,” Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich said in a statement.
The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana. Judge Robert Summerhays announced a temporary restraining order in the case Monday, calling on the Department of Justice and states to work out the details in continuing the policy.
The policy was put into effect in March 2020 and mandated that U.S. border officials turn away migrants immediately after they illegally came across the border. It also meant migrants seeking asylum at international bridges would not be able to. The temporary policy was good for 60 days but has been renewed over the past two years. In that time, border officials have turned migrants away more than 1.7 million times using the authority, including many who have tried to cross the border more than once.
However, the Department of Homeland Security admitted in court documents filed April 22 that it “has begun in recent weeks [i.e., post-April 1 termination order] to increase the use of expedited removal for some single adults eligible for removal who would otherwise be expelled pursuant to Title 42.” Under expedited removal procedures, migrants may claim asylum and avoid being removed from the country.
National Border Patrol Council President Brandon Judd told the Washington Examiner last week that the administration had begun taking into custody some migrants from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, an indication that it was not expelling them despite Title 42’s still being in effect.
The lawsuit was filed in response to the Biden administration’s early April announcement that it would lift the measure after 14 months of pressure from immigrant advocates, who said the rule unfairly penalizes people seeking asylum. The three states argued that the way the White House is ending Title 42 violates the notice-and-comment requirements in the Administrative Procedure Act.
Republicans and some Democrats have said, though, that ending the rule will lead many more people to try to cross the border and worsen the existing migration crisis that began shortly after President Joe Biden took office.
“This suit challenges an imminent, man-made, self-inflicted calamity: the abrupt elimination of the only safety valve preventing this Administration’s disastrous border policies from devolving into an unmitigated chaos and catastrophe,” the complaint states.