A federal judge on Friday slammed President Biden’s decision to grant an exemption to illegal immigrant children at the border by allowing them to enter while other migrants are turned back amid the pandemic.
Judge Mark T. Pittman said the exemption makes no sense since children can spread COVID-19, too. He ordered the government to undo the exemption and treat so-called Unaccompanied Alien Children, or UACs, the same as other illegal immigrants.
The decision is the latest scorching judicial rebuke to Mr. Biden’s immigration policies, with courts finding the president’s moves filled with contradictions.
In the case of UACs, Judge Pittman said the government conceded they can spread the virus, and didn’t offer any real medical justification for why they should be treated differently than other illegal immigrants who are turned back at the border under a Trump-era pandemic emergency order, known as Title 42.
“And instead of trying to prevent UAC from spreading the viruses they are potentially carrying to the interior of the United States, the Government chose to send UAC away from the facilities where the Government could monitor them and their health,” Judge Pittman ruled.
Under Title 42, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention decision, the government is supposed to turn back illegal immigrants to prevent them from introducing more cases of the coronavirus into the U.S.
The Trump administration triggered the power in 2020 and the Biden administration has kept it in place, though early on it carved out an exemption for UACs, saying the Trump team was cruel to oust children who may have just made a long, treacherous journey without parents.
The result of the carve-out was a record-shattering surge of children rushing to the border, overwhelming the government’s ability to handle them.
Biden officials said the UAC exemption could help stop the spread of the virus at the border from one child to another. But Judge Pittman said that didn’t answer any of the other questions about whether children would then spread the virus to others inside the U.S.
“Of course, evidence might show that excepting UAC does not spread — or increase the risk of spreading — COVID-19 to the interior of the United States. But the Government failed to make that showing,” he wrote.
His ruling came just hours after another ruling by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, which also backed Title 42 — though with significant skepticism and caveats.
In that case, the judges ruled that the administration is likely on firm legal ground in using Title 42 to turn back illegal immigrants.
But the panel also ruled that probably should not be sent back to countries where they face risks of persecution or torture.
Immigrant-rights advocates have argued that Title 42 violates the government’s duty to allow illegal immigrants to claim asylum.
The judges said that’s not the case — though they did chide the administration for sticking with a two-year-old policy.
“The CDC’s … order looks in certain respects like a relic from an era with no vaccines, scarce testing, few therapeutics, and little certainty,” wrote Judge Justin R. Walker for the unanimous panel.
• Stephen Dinan can be reached at email@example.com.
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