Judge: COVID asylum restrictions must continue at border | American politics

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Pandemic-related restrictions on migrants seeking asylum at the southern border must continue, a judge said Friday in an order blocking the Biden administration’s plan to lift them early in next week.

The decision was just the latest example of a court derailing the president’s proposed immigration policies along the US border with Mexico.

The Justice Department said the administration would appeal, but the ruling virtually guarantees that the restrictions will not end as planned on Monday. A delay would be a blow to advocates who say rights to seek asylum are being flouted, and a relief to some Democrats who fear a widely anticipated increase in illegal crossings will put them on the defensive in an election year of mid-term already difficult.

In Tijuana, Mexico, Yesivet Evangelina Aguilar, 34, cupped her face in her hands and sobbed when she learned of the decision from an Associated Press reporter. “I feel like there’s no more hope,” said Aguilar, who fled the Mexican state of Guerrero nearly a year ago after his brother died. “It’s so bad.”

Aguilar was blocked by US authorities from seeking asylum when she and her 10-year-old daughter traveled to the Tijuana-San Diego port of entry nine months ago. On Friday, she was lying in a tent in a shelter in Tijuana where dozens of migrants are camping. Some have been there for months or years. Aguilar’s waiting life was not only tedious but dangerous. On Thursday evening, another migrant was hit in the neck by a stray bullet during a shooting outside the shelter.

Migrants have been deported more than 1.9 million times since March 2020 under Title 42, a public health provision that denies them the ability to seek asylum under US law and an international treaty in the reason to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

U.S. District Judge Robert Summerhays in Lafayette, Louisiana, ordered the restrictions to remain in place while a lawsuit led by Arizona and Louisiana – and now joined by 22 other states – proceeds in court.

Summerhays sided with the states in deciding President Joe Biden’s administration failed to follow administrative procedures requiring public notice and time to seek public comment on the plan to end the restrictions. And he said states had argued they would suffer harm if the restrictions ended.

The judge cited what he said were the government’s own predictions that ending restrictions would likely triple border crossings, to up to 18,000 a day. This, he added, would result in the treatment of more migrants in gathering places where contagious diseases can spread. “The record also includes evidence supporting the claimant states’ position that such an increase in border crossings will increase their costs of reimbursing health care and education services. These costs are not recoverable,” said writes Summerhays.

The White House said it disagreed with the decision but would abide by it during the appeal. “The power to set public health policy at the national level should rest with the Centers for Disease Control, not a single district court,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement. communicated.

The case then goes to the New Orleans-based US 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, which has ruled against key policies of the Biden administration in the past. The court is dominated by Republican candidates, including six nominated by former President Donald Trump, who also nominated Summerhays.

Title 42 largely affects people from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, many of whom wait in Mexican border towns after being denied the right to seek asylum by the US government. Mexico has agreed to accept migrants from these three Central American countries who have been turned away by the United States and last month also began accepting limited numbers of Cubans and Nicaraguans.

About 15 migrants crossed the Río Grande to Eagle Pass, Texas, in waist-deep water minutes after Friday’s ruling. They included Nicaraguans who were unaware of Title 42 and who were thrilled that people in their country were generally spared the politics.

“Thank goodness we have that advantage,” said Maynor Zuniga, 25, who was all smiles as he waited under an international bridge in Piedras Negras, Mexico, for Border Patrol agents to arrive.

Title 42 is the second major Trump-era policy aimed at deterring asylum on the Mexican border that was jettisoned by Biden, only to be revived by a Trump-appointed judge.

A lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union derided the decision.

“Title 42 can only be used for public health purposes, but the states that have filed this lawsuit seem to only care about COVID restrictions when involving asylum seekers and using the case as a transparent attempt to manage the border,” said Lee Gelernt. “This hypocrisy should not be rewarded.”

Representative Raul Ruiz, a California Democrat and chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, said the decision was “outrageous, ridiculous and erodes our asylum system.”

Republican members of Congress hailed the decision.

“The courts are once again right,” said Republican North Dakota Sen. Kevin Cramer.

Even some members of Biden’s party supported keeping the pandemic restriction in place.

“Today’s decision does not change the fact that there is a crisis at the border and that there must be a detailed plan that can be implemented before Title 42 is lifted,” said the Senator Mark Kelley, a Democrat from Arizona who faces a tough re-election challenge. .

Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments about whether to allow the administration to force asylum seekers to wait in Mexico for U.S. immigration court hearings. This case, challenging a policy known as “Stay in Mexico”, originated in Amarillo, Texas. It was reinstated in December by order of the judge and remains in effect while the litigation unfolds.

Spagat reported from Eagle Pass, Texas. Associated Press reporters Julie Watson in Tijuana, Mexico and Alan Fram and Mike Balsamo in Washington contributed to this report.

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