US Supreme Court keeps Title 42 in place for now

Republican states ask to keep pandemic-era border restrictions that were set to expire this week

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At the request of Republican officials in 19 US states, Chief Supreme Court Justice John Roberts on Monday temporarily blocked the Biden administration from ending a pandemic-era policy of rapidly expelling migrants caught at the US-Mexico border later this week.

Republican state officials said they had asked the Supreme Court to preserve pandemic-era border restrictions that are set to end on Wednesday, saying their termination would mean a surge of new crossings.

The last-ditch filing comes after a federal appeals court in Washington on Friday refused to keep the so-called Title 42 restrictions in force, saying the 19 states had waited too long to try to intervene in a two-year-old legal fight.

The states are asking the Supreme Court to keep the rules in place while litigation continues.

Former president Donald Trump's administration invoked Title 42 early in the pandemic to let officials turn away asylum seekers and other migrants at the border. Although Title 42 is a public-health provision, many border hawks have come to view it as a necessary tool to manage record migrant encounters.

A federal district judge struck down the restrictions in November, saying they were “arbitrary and capricious”. Immigrant families affected by the policy are challenging it.

President Joe Biden's administration has taken a nuanced stance towards the expulsion policy, appealing the district court’s order but not seeking to keep the restrictions in place in the meantime.

Republicans and some Democrats have urged Mr Biden to retain the Title 42 restrictions, while immigrants’ rights advocates decry the continuation of a policy that blocks access to asylum for many people.

US officials recorded more than two million migrant encounters at the southern border in fiscal 2021, more than double the fiscal 2019 total. Title 42 was used to expel migrants more than a million times in 2021.

The Republican-led states say lifting the restrictions would require them to spend more money on law enforcement and social services. Justice Department lawyers have said the states lack standing to join the litigation.

News agencies contributed to this report

Updated: December 19, 2022, 10:28 PM