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Court blocks Biden from easing border policy

A federal judge in Louisiana has issued a temporary restraining order barring US President Joe Biden’s administration from ending an emergency policy that allowed border agents to quickly expel asylum seekers to protect against the spread of Covid-19.

US District Court Judge Robert Summerhays made the ruling on Monday, granting a request by 21 Republican-led states to block the administration from moving forward with plans to stop implementing its so-called Title 42 authority on May 23. Summerhays still hasn’t made a final determination on the merits of the case, so it’s possible that he could allow the government to resume unwinding Title 42 after a hearing scheduled for May 13.

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“This is a huge victory for border security, but the fight continues on,” Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt said of Monday’s ruling. Missouri, Louisiana, and Arizona were the first states to challenge the administration’s decision, while Texas filed a separate lawsuit to keep Title 42 in place.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced earlier this month that it would end Title 42 migrant expulsions, saying the emergency restrictions were no longer necessary under current public health conditions. However, days later, the same agency extended a mandate requiring Americans to wear masks on planes, trains, and other public transportation, saying it needed more time to assess the impact of rising Covid-19 infections. A federal judge last week struck down the mask mandate, saying the CDC had overstepped its legal authority.

READ MORE: US bracing for millions of new migrants

Former President Donald Trump imposed Title 42 restrictions in March 2020, and the authority has been used to expel more than 1.8 million migrants to Mexico or their home countries. Asylum seekers were previously allowed to stay in the US while waiting out adjudication of their asylum claims, a provision that was frequently abused by those who had no intention of showing up for their hearings in immigration court.

With migrant traffic surging to a 22-year high since Biden took office in January 2021, many Republicans and even some Democrats have criticized the decision to end use of Title 42, saying it will worsen the border crisis. Representative Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) called the decision “wrong and reckless,” saying, “Prematurely ending this policy without a path forward does nothing to keep Americans safe, support our Border Patrol agents, protect asylum seekers or bring about the comprehensive fix our immigration system needs.”

More than 220,000 migrants were apprehended at the US-Mexico border in March, up 33% from the previous month, and the highest total since 2000. Daily apprehensions could more than double to an unprecedented 18,000 once Title 42 is lifted, according to a government estimate. Those figures don’t include migrants who enter the US undetected. In March, 81% of migrants from Mexico and Central America were expelled under Title 42 authority.

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