The Supreme Court on Monday blocked the lifting of key immigration policy Title 42.
The statute, which gives commanders-in-chief the power to shut down immigration as an emergency action to keep communicable diseases out of the United States, was last used by former President Donald Trump in reaction to the COVID outbreak. Families seeking asylum had filed a lawsuit which led Judge Emmet Sullivan of the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., to order the Biden administration to lift Title 42 by Wednesday.
Customs and Border Protection officials warned lawmakers that approximately 50,000 foreigners were waiting to cross into the United States once Title 42 ended. An order from Chief Justice John Roberts, however, stayed the ruling of the lower court.
“Texas and other states are insisting that the Court leave Title 42 in place. Today’s order is a step in that direction,” Gov. Greg Abbott (R-TX) said in reaction to the move. “This helps prevent illegal immigration.”
Leaders in border cities had been bracing for an influx of immigrants. Oscar Leeser, the Democratic mayor of El Paso, Texas, declared a state of emergency on Saturday in anticipation of the end of Title 42. “Our asylum seekers are not safe,” the official said at a press conference. “We have hundreds and hundreds on the street and that’s not the way we treat our people.”
More than 80,000 migrants have entered El Paso in the last four months; approximately 678,000 people currently reside in the city, where temperatures can drop below freezing during winter nights. Leeser did not rule out the option of using a nearby military base to temporarily house migrants, adding that officials were discussing options with state and federal authorities.
As many as 4.9 million migrants have crossed into the United States under the administration of President Joe Biden, according to data from the Federation for American Immigration Reform. Some 66 individuals from the terror watchlist crossed the border between October 2021 and July 2022; in the previous five years combined, only 30 aliens from the terror watchlist had been apprehended.
Sullivan said in his November ruling that the use of Title 42 to stop migrants from entering the United States for asylum is an “arbitrary” use of the law. “It is unreasonable for the CDC to assume that it can ignore the consequences of any actions it chooses to take in the pursuit of fulfilling its goals, particularly when those actions included the extraordinary decision to suspend the codified procedural and substantive rights of non-citizens seeking safe harbor,” he wrote.
The Department of Homeland Security previously vowed to continue enforcing Title 42 until the policy ended. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said last week that the agency would “process individuals encountered at the border without proper travel documents using its longstanding Title 8 authorities, which provide for meaningful consequences, including barring individuals who are removed from re-entry for five years.”
Policies from the Biden administration meant to decrease illegal crossings have emphasized “root causes” such as economic instability in some Latin American nations rather than increased security at the border.
Dillon Burroughs contributed to this report.