The Biden administration signaled Monday that it plans to keep the so-called Title 42 coronavirus border shutdown in place a while longer, dashing hopes of immigrant-rights advocates who had believed the government would soon lift the policy and stop expelling some illegal immigrants.
Some of those activists had sued to end the authority, and they had been in negotiations with the government to see if they could reach a settlement. Title 42 is a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention order to control the spread of COVID-19 that allows the government to immediately expel anyone caught attempting to enter at the border without authorization.
But in a joint court filing Monday, the two sides said they were at an impasse and will return to battling it out in the courtroom.
“We gave the Biden administration more than enough time to fix any problems left behind by the Trump administration, but it has left us no choice but to return to court. Families’ lives are at stake,” Lee Gelernt of the American Civil Liberties Union, who is the lead lawyer on the case for the activists, said in a statement announcing the breakdown of negotiations.
The Biden administration had sent signals earlier this summer that it was looking to try to end use of the Title 42 authority.
But with the border situation worsening and COVID cases again soaring, including among migrants, the Biden team appears to fear losing its best tool for limiting catch-and-release of new illegal immigrants.
Since Title 42 was triggered by the Trump administration in March 2020, hundreds of thousands of migrants have been turned back within hours of jumping the border.
The Biden team, while erasing most of the rest of the Trump legacy on border security, kept the Title 42 authority in place, though it carved out exceptions for unaccompanied illegal immigrant children and for some families whom Mexico has refused to allow back across the boundary.
Immigration activists say the policy has denied some people a chance to claim asylum, and so it is illegal.
They filed a class-action lawsuit that had been racing through the courts until both sides agreed to a time-out to try to negotiate a deal that the activists figured would end Title 42.
“The parties’ discussions attempting to resolve or narrow the dispute in this case have reached an impasse,” the Justice Department and the plaintiff activists said in their joint filing.
They asked U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan, who is presiding over the case, to restart the briefing schedule and put the legal battle back on track.