Vulnerable Democrats relieved as judge rules Title 42 border closure will remain

Homeland Security said it is complying with a judge’s ruling blocking the Biden administration from halting the Title 42 pandemic border closure, delivering a victory for Republicans and a reprieve for many Democrats who had feared political fallout if President Biden fully reopened the border. .

Judge Robert Summerhays, in his ruling on Friday, said the president and his team broke the Administrative Procedure Act by cutting too many corners in their attempt to lift Title 42, a section of the Public Health Act. which let the United States steer clear of illegal cross-border commuters the most because of the threat they pose from the spread of COVID.

He sided with GOP-led states who said they would bear the brunt of a wave of newcomers expected to flood the border once Title 42 ended and should have been able to weigh in with the administration before it announced last month that it was ending the border closure. .

The termination was to take effect on Monday, but Judge Summerhays’ preliminary injunction suspends it.

Republicans cheered the decision, with Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, who led states to challenge Title 42, saying it means Border Patrol can preserve “some level of sanity” along of the US-Mexico border.

Some Democrats, especially those facing tough re-election races in border states, hailed the judge’s ruling, saying they too felt the administration was rushing to reopen the border with no plan to handle the influx. of migrants which was to reach as high as half a million people per month.

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“I’ve made my concerns about the lifting of Title 42 very clear,” said Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, a Democrat from Texas whose district stretches from the border to near San Antonio.

In Arizona, Sen. Mark Kelly, another Democrat, said his constituents had “paid the price” for Washington’s policy failures, and he said the judge’s decision was not a permanent answer.

“Today’s decision does not change the fact that there is a crisis at the border and that there must be a detailed plan that can be implemented before Title 42 is lifted,” he said. -he declares.

But other Democrats were infuriated by Justice Summerhays’ decision.

Representative Raul Ruiz, a California Democrat and chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, said the decision was “outrageous, ridiculous and erodes our asylum system.”

“Title 42 denies asylum seekers their legal rights under US law to due process in the United States and runs counter to international humanitarian norms and values,” he said.

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The White House, while siding rhetorically with Mr. Ruiz, is acting more in line with Democrats in the border states by slowly challenging Judge Summerhays.

Although the Justice Department announced an appeal, it has yet to file a motion to suspend the judge’s decision.

On Sunday, the White House declined to comment on the decision, saying only that the president continued to believe it was time for the policy to end.

“We appeal,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters traveling with the president abroad.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas had insisted to lawmakers that his department would be ready to end Title 42 in time, but acknowledged that this would lead to an increase in the number of illegal immigrants making a run for it. the border, thinking they would have a better chance of getting in. .

Following Friday’s ruling, his department said it would continue to prepare, even if it followed the judge’s ruling.

“We will comply with the court order to continue to enforce the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Title 42 order while it remains in place,” the department said in an unsigned statement.

Title 42 was instituted at the start of the pandemic by the Trump administration, giving an already rigid anti-illegal immigrant team a powerful new tool to block unauthorized border crossings.

The CDC, the agency that triggers Title 42, concluded that illegal immigrants present a new vector for COVID cases, and that the dangers of holding them in cramped border facilities for hours or days carry a risk of spread. even bigger.

The Biden administration, while erasing most of Trump’s other immigration policies, kept Title 42 in place for 16 months.

Border Patrol agents said it was the only tool they had to reduce the growing number of migrants who thought they could reach the United States under Mr Biden’s more relaxed policies.

But in April, the CDC concluded that illegal immigrants no longer posed such a high risk for COVID, finding that the decrease in the omicron surge and the availability of at least one dose of the vaccine at the border for new arrivals were enough to mitigate the risks.

In the weeks that followed, infection rates rose again in the United States, while those numbers are still low in major source countries like Cuba, Mexico and Colombia.

Yet the United States has maintained its blanket ban on legal arrivals at the border who lack proof of vaccination, meaning that illegal immigrants who skip the border and make asylum claims will be treated better than those who are trying to come legally.

At the border, Title 42 had been a resounding success under the Trump administration when, combined with other policies, it helped Homeland Security quickly evict more than 90% of people crossing illegally.

The Biden administration has been less eager to use Title 42 and has also been constrained by a less cooperative approach from Mexico.

In April, Customs and Border Protection recorded more than 234,000 illegal immigrants stopped at the border. About 202,000 of them were caught by Border Patrol agents as they were sneaking around, and another 32,000 were encountered by agents as they arrived at border crossings but had no permission to enter.

About half were quickly released inside and another 20,000 were handed over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Most of these ICE transfers are also published.

This means that the success rate for illegal immigrants to successfully settle in the United States right now is much better than 50-50, given the rates of recidivism and “runaways”, or those who completely avoid the detection.

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