US judge keeps pandemic Title 42 border measures in place

Biden administration and US CDC say restrictions are no longer needed while Republicans fight removal

Migrants who had crossed the Rio Grande into the US are apprehended by the National Guard in Eagle Pass, Texas. AP
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US authorities cannot immediately proceed with plans to lift pandemic restrictions that empowered US agents at the Mexico border to turn back migrants without a chance to seek asylum, a Louisiana-based judge said on Friday.

The nationwide injunction issued by US District Judge Robert Summerhays means the restrictions, which were set to end on May 23, will remain in place across the border as the litigation proceeds, barring any appeal by the US Department of Justice.

The pandemic restrictions, known as Title 42, were put in place in March 2020 during the administration of former Republican president Donald Trump.

The US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said at the time the measure was needed to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Since then, more than a million migrants apprehended at the border have been expelled to Mexico or other countries under the order, often within hours of being caught.

President Joe Biden kept Title 42 in place, despite concerns from medical experts, the UN and leading members of his own party, who said the expulsions put vulnerable migrants in danger and were not based on science.

Last month, the CDC said Title 42 was no longer needed to fight Covid-19 due to the increased availability of vaccines and other tools. The health agency gave border authorities until May 23 to prepare for its end.

But a coalition of two dozen states led by Arizona, Louisiana and Missouri, all with Republican attorneys general, sued to prevent the Biden administration from ending the policy.

Mr Summerhays, a Trump appointee, said a nationwide injunction is necessary given the ability of immigrants crossing the border to move freely from one state to another.

Updated: May 20, 2022, 10:21 PM