A Supreme Court decision will keep a controversial Trump-era rule allowing the US to deport migrants at the Mexico border as a public health measure in response to the pandemic.
The court voted 5-4 on Tuesday to grant an emergency request by 19 Republican attorneys general who were trying to intervene in defense of the policy. It also agreed to hear oral arguments in February and decide whether states can intervene, with a decision by the end of June. The Directive will remain in effect at least until such judgment is rendered.
“Title 42 is a public health measure, not an immigration enforcement measure, and it should not be extended indefinitely,” the White House said in a statement. “To truly fix our broken immigration system, Congress must pass sweeping immigration policy reform measures, as proposed by President Biden on his first day in office.”
Conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch, along with the three Liberals in court, voted against the stay motion. The brief court order said that while the administration cannot vacate the Title 42 policy, the decision “does not prevent the federal government from taking any action with respect to this policy.”
Since 2020, more than 2 million people have been deported at the southern border as part of the policy.
In November, a federal district court in Washington, DC, ordered the Department of Homeland Security to end the policy on December 21, criticizing the deportations as arbitrary. But Republican-led states intervened in the case, successfully petitioning the Supreme Court to block that lower court ruling. Chief Justice John Roberts temporarily prevented the Biden administration from exiting the controversial policy earlier this month.
The deportation policy has its origins in the Trump administration. In March 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention applied a provision of the Public Health Services Act, or Title 42, to ban migrants from entering the United States from Mexico or Canada due to the risk of spreading Covid-19. The deportation policy is often referred to simply as Title 42.
But human rights groups and dozens of health experts have slammed the policy as a way for the federal government to carry out mass arbitrary deportations at the southern border under the guise of public health.
The White House continued the policy until April 2022, when the CDC said it needed longer to prevent the spread of Covid. The CDC and DHS had planned for the policy to end in May, but Republican states sued, leading a federal court in Louisiana to block the Biden administration from ending the deportations at that time as well.
Republicans and some Democrats argue that ending the policy will result in a sharp increase in migration at the southern border, which communities there cannot cope with. El Paso, Texas, declared a state of emergency Saturday in response to the recent spike in migrants crossing the border.