The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday temporarily blocked an order that would lift Title 42, the pandemic-era health policy that has been used to deter migrants more than 2.5 million times.
The order Monday by Chief Justice John Roberts comes as cities along the U.S.-Mexico border have been scrambling to prepare for an expected influx of migrants in anticipation of Title 42’s end.
Earlier Monday, 19 states had asked the high court for an emergency stay that would keep Title 42 in place.
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In the one-page order, Chief Justice Roberts granted a stay pending further order and asked the government to respond by 5 p.m. Tuesday. That is just hours before the restrictions are slated to expire on Wednesday.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said the public health order “will remain in effect at this time and individuals who attempt to enter the United States unlawfully will continue to be expelled to Mexico.”
“While this stage of the litigation proceeds, we will continue our preparations to manage the border in a safe, orderly, and humane way when the Title 42 public health order lifts,” DHS said. “We urge Congress to use this time to provide the funds we have requested for border security and management and advance the comprehensive immigration measures President Biden proposed on his first day in office.”
The immigration restrictions, often referred to as Title 42, were put in place under then-President Donald Trump in March 2020 and have prevented hundreds of thousands of migrants from seeking asylum in the U.S. in recent years. But as they’re set to expire, thousands more migrants are packed in shelters on Mexico’s border with the U.S.
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El Paso, Texas and Ciudad Juarez in Mexico on Sunday were preparing for a surge of as many as 5,000 new migrants a day in anticipation of Title 42’s expiration. El Paso Mayor Oscar Leeser on Saturday issued an emergency declaration to access additional local and state resources for building shelters and other urgently needed aid.
Immigration advocates sued to stop the use of Title 42 to limit who can apply for asylum, saying that the policy goes against American and international obligations to people fleeing to the U.S. to escape persecution. And they’ve argued that things like vaccines and treatments for the coronavirus have made the policy outdated.
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Conservative-leaning states have argued that lifting of Title 42 will lead to a surge of migrants into their states and take a toll on government services like health care or law enforcement. They also charge that the federal government has no plan to deal with an increase in migrants.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, called the Court’s ruling a step toward leaving Title 42 in place.
“This helps prevent illegal immigration,” he said.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who filed a motion earlier Monday asking to halt President Biden’s scrapping of Title 42, vowed to keep fighting for the policy to remain in place.
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“I will do everything I can in court to ensure our border is secure,” he said.