A federal judge has temporarily blocked the Biden administration from ending Title 42 restrictions enacted during the COVID-19 pandemic aimed at limiting asylum seekers who can apply for protection at the U.S. and Mexico border.
Judge Robert Summerhays, a Trump appointee, granted a motion for a temporary restraining order preventing the Biden administration from lifting Title 42 rules issued under the Trump administration in March 2020. A lawsuit against the administration's plan was filed by Missouri, Louisiana and Arizona.
Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt announced the restraining order on Monday.
The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention implemented the measure to limit the number of asylum seekers applying for protection at the U.S. and Mexico border. But the CDC announced its decision to end the order on April 1, with the Biden administration intending to implement the termination on May 23.
"Today, the Court announced its intention to grant a temporary restraining order in Missouri, Louisiana, and Arizona's lawsuit against the Biden Administration over their planned suspension of Title 42," Schmitt wrote. "This temporary restraining order is expected to keep Title 42 in place until further court proceedings, a critical win for border security and the rule of law. My Office will continue to fight to secure the border and protect Missourians."
Former Acting Director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Tom Homan, who now serves as a visiting fellow at the conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation, told The Christian Post the judge's ruling “the right decision for health protection in this country."
Homan believes Title 42 has been “very successful” in preventing the spread of COVID-19 and improving border security.
“The truth is we want to keep less infection from coming to the United States but also give border patrol more operational capability because when they close the borders, less people are coming, and that means border patrol ... can more than hold down the line, they're vigilant, to protect our national security,” the former Trump administration official said.
Several Democrats voiced opposition to lifting the public health directive, including Sens. Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly of Arizona. As Roll Call reported, the senators wrote in a March 24 letter to President Joe Biden that while Title 42 "should not be in effect indefinitely," it should remain in place until the administration implemented a better plan to process migrants' claims.
The senators warned that abruptly ending a policy without a clear plan for replacing it would "significantly increase the strain on [Department of Homeland Security], border communities, and local nonprofits that are already near or at capacity."
The senators also contend that the administration had not communicated with local government and community leaders in Arizona about changes to the policy.
Last month when talking to reporters, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., also voiced opposition to lifting Title 42.
"If anything we should be looking at permanency on Title 42," he said. "Maybe that would spur us to get a good immigration policy that works for Americans and secure our borders — the borders have to be secure," he said.
The progressive legal organization American Civil Liberties Union claimed in a March 29 statement that it believes Title 42 has been "misused as a border enforcement tool."
"Our government has the tools it needs to safely screen people at the border, as our laws require, to determine whether they qualify for asylum or other humanitarian protections," the group wrote. "The CDC should resist any political interference from the White House and end Title 42 in its entirety."
The CDC had voted to extend the Title 42 order in late January due to an uptick in COVID-19 cases caused by the omicron variant. This past March, the CDC delayed implementing an order to rescind Title 42 until May 23 to allow Homeland Security to prepare for a dramatic increase in border crossings within the next few months.
According to federal statistics submitted to a federal court earlier this month, DHS reported 221,303 total encounters at the Southwest Border during March. As CBS News reported last month, the government carried out 1.7 million deportations under Title 42.