A federal judge on Monday issued a ruling halting President Biden’s attempt to cancel the Title 42 pandemic shutdown of the southern border, dealing a blow to the administration’s moves to welcome hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants.
Judge Robert R. Summerhays in Louisiana said details of the temporary restraining order are still to be worked out, and he sent both sides back to try to work out an agreement.
Mr. Biden had sought to end Title 42 on May 23, and it’s not clear what immediate effect the ruling will have at the border.
Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, who led the lawsuit against Mr. Biden, said the Department of Homeland Security had already begun to curtail the use of Title 42 in recent weeks.
“The Biden administration cannot continue in flagrant disregard for existing laws and required administrative procedures,” Mr. Brnovich said in a statement after the judge’s ruling.
Under Title 42, begun by the Trump administration at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, illegal immigrants who showed up at the border were able to be immediately expelled, usually to Mexico. The argument was that they risked further spread of the coronavirus.
SEE ALSO: Texas confirms National Guard soldier’s death at border
Nearly 2 million expulsions have taken place under the policy. Immigrant-rights advocates say some of those were asylum seekers with legitimate claims, who were sent back to dangerous conditions.
But without Title 42, the Department of Homeland Security says it expects potentially more than half a million illegal immigrants to rush the border each month. That would more than double the previous records for border chaos.
The revocation of Title 42 had become a major political headache for Mr. Biden, with several Democrats facing reelection this year urging the president to keep the policy in place until he has a plan to deal with the expected surge.
But Hispanic lawmakers, in a meeting with Mr. Biden just before the judge’s ruling Monday, told the president they would tolerate no delay, saying his moral leadership was at stake.
The ruling by Judge Summerhays, a Trump appointee to the court in Louisiana, comes as Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas is scheduled for three days of hearings on Capitol Hill.
Mr. Mayorkas has blamed smugglers for spreading “misinformation” about the U.S. border, fueling the record surge of migrants who have stormed in from Mexico over the last 12 months.
The secretary insisted that those who arrive without permission and without viable claims of protection “will be removed.”
The problem for Mr. Mayorkas, border experts said, is that the smugglers aren’t peddling misinformation. Those who arrive and make asylum claims, even dubious ones, will have a good chance of being caught and released, earning a chance to burrow into communities while they await deportation hearings that stretch years.
As an indication of Title 42’s effectiveness, agents pointed to its use by the Trump administration. Nearly 85% of people apprehended by the Border Patrol were expelled under Title 42 from March to December 2020, and agents averaged fewer than 48,000 apprehensions per month during that period.
Under Mr. Biden, Title 42 expulsions dropped to 56% of Border Patrol arrests, and more people came. Agents averaged nearly 168,000 arrests a month under Mr. Biden or three times the flow under Mr. Trump.