Tuesday, November 29, 2022

US federal judge blocks expulsions of migrants under Title 42

A United States federal judge has ordered an end to restricting migrants under Title 42, a pandemic-era immigration policy that allowed asylum seekers crossing the Mexico-U.S. border to be immediately expelled to Mexico, ostensibly to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Washington D.C.-based District Judge Emmet Sullivan ordered an instant halt to Title 42 expulsions, calling the policy “arbitrary and capricious.” His 49-page ruling found that the policy’s impact on migrants is unjustifiable, given that the coronavirus has long been widespread in the U.S. and many alternative measures exist to control it.

“With regard to whether defendants could have ‘ramped up vaccinations, outdoor processing and all other available public health measures’… the court finds the CDC [Center for Disease Control] failed to articulate a satisfactory explanation for why such measures were not feasible,” Sullivan wrote.

The Justice Department swiftly requested a five-week stay to the order’s enforcement, until December 21.

ACLU Immigrants' Rights ProjectDeputy Director
Deputy Director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project Lee Gelernt, who argued the case, called Title 42 “a charade” whose real aim is to bar asylum seekers from getting a hearing. University of Texas/Austin

“This transition period is critical to ensuring that (the Department of Homeland Security) can continue to carry out its mission to secure the nation’s borders and to conduct its border operations in an orderly fashion, government attorneys argued.

In a revised ruling, Sullivan conceded the request “with great reluctance.”

The delay could allow time for a legal challenge to Sullivan’s order, which contradicts a Louisiana ruling in May that maintained the asylum restrictions.

If the order stands, it will remove one of the key tools both the Trump and Biden administrations have used to control unauthorized migration, with huge implications for border enforcement.

US President Joe Biden, Mexican President Lopez Obrador
At a recent meeting with Mexican President López Obrador, U.S. President Biden agreed to expand Title 42. Cuartoscuro

However, the policy has been unevenly enforced by nationality, with those accepted in Mexico — principally Guatemalans, Hondurans and Salvadorans — more likely to be expelled. Nationals who had to be transported to their countries of origin, such as Cubans, Venezuelans and Nicaraguans, have made up a growing proportion of U.S. asylum claims and are a growing presence on the Mexico-U.S. border.

Judge Sullivan’s order comes one month after the Biden administration reached an agreement with Mexico to expand Title 42, allowing Venezuelan migrants to also be expelled to Mexico. The deal caused Venezuelan asylum claims in the U.S. to drop sharply but was criticized by humanitarian groups and NGOs in Mexico and worldwide.

As a result of this cruel and poorly planned policy, thousands of Venezuelans are now stranded across the region, needlessly exacerbating existing humanitarian crises in Mexico and Panama and creating new humanitarian emergencies in Costa Rica, Honduras and other countries,” the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) said in an open letter published one day before Sullivan’s order.

Migration Policy Institute Chart on migration
According to the Migration Policy Institute, Title 42 has been applied unevenly among nationalities of migrants apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border, as these FY 2022 figures show. MPI

Human rights groups and activists have celebrated the overturning of Title 42, calling on the U.S. government to fulfill its commitments to provide legal migration pathways and protection for refugees.

“Title 42 was never about public health, and this ruling finally ends the charade of using Title 42 to bar desperate asylum seekers from even getting a hearing,” said American Civil Liberties Union attorney and deputy director of its Lee Gelernt, who argued the case.

However, some Republicans have expressed alarm that the development could lead to a further increase in migrants entering the country. Detentions of migrants on the Mexico-U.S. border have surged in recent years and were projected to reach a record 2.3 million in the fiscal year ending in September 2022.

The rising numbers are partly a distortion, caused by the practice of expelling migrants to the Mexican border region rather than repatriating them, leading many migrants to make repeated attempts to cross. Thousands are currently waiting along the border in shelters, where they are vulnerable to exploitation or recruitment by criminal actors.

“It is well-documented that migrants and asylum seekers who are expelled from the United States under Title 42 and other programs face extreme threats such as kidnapping, sexual assault, extortion and risk to life in Mexico, read WOLA’s open letter.

With reports from Associated Press, CNN and the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA)

The 'three amigos' at last year's leadership summit.

North American Leaders’ Summit to be held in CDMX in January: AMLO

Biden and Trudeau will travel to Mexico City in January for the North American Leaders Summit, AMLO said Friday.
Thursday's ruling means that people accused of homicide, rape, kidnapping, fuel theft, burglary and firearm offenses will continue to be jailed before trial.

Supreme Court upholds mandatory pre-trial detention except in financial crimes

The Supreme Court has ruled that current mandates for pre-trial detention are valid except in cases of alleged financial crimes.
Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum is a close ally of López Obrador, who has lauded her work as mayor.

AMLO declares he has ‘millions’ of friends, but no time to attend their life events

President López Obrador revealed Thursday that he's too busy to attend weddings, implying he might miss Claudia Sheinbaum's nuptials.