A pandemic health policy used to quickly expel illegal migrants must remain in place, a judge ruled Friday in an order blocking the Biden administration’s plan to lift the restriction early next week.
While the administration can appeal, the ruling sharply increases the odds that Title 42 will not end as planned on Monday.
Illegal migrants have been expelled more than 1.9 million times since March 2020 under the public health provision.
U.S. District Judge Robert Summerhays in Lafayette, Louisiana, ordered that the restrictions stay in place while a lawsuit led by Arizona and Louisiana — and now joined by 22 other states — plays out in court.
The states argued that the administration failed to adequately consider the effects that lifting the restrictions would have on public health and law enforcement.
Drew Ensign, an attorney for the state of Arizona, argued at a hearing that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention failed to follow administrative procedures requiring public notice and time to gather public comment.
Jean Lin, a Justice Department attorney, told the judge that the CDC was empowered to lift an emergency health restriction it felt was no longer needed. She said the order was a matter of health policy, not immigration.
Summerhays, who was appointed by President Donald Trump, had already ruled in favor of the states by halting efforts to end the use of the pandemic-era rule.
Title 42 is the second major Trump-era policy to deter illegal immigration at the Mexican border that was jettisoned by President Joe Biden, only to be revived by a judge.
Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments on whether to allow the administration to force migrants to wait in Mexico for hearings in U.S. immigration court.
That case, challenging a policy known as “Remain in Mexico,” originated in Amarillo, Texas. It was reinstated in December on the judge’s order and remains in effect while the litigation plays out.
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