Court allows U.S. border officials to continue expelling migrant families

An appeals court on Thursday suspended a federal judge’s order that would have barred the Biden administration from using a pandemic-era border policy to expel migrant families with little to no due process.

The federal judge’s order paused by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals would have required the Biden administration to process all migrant families with children under U.S. immigration laws, which allow them to seek asylum or other forms of humanitarian refuge.

At the center of the court case is a public health authority, colloquially known as Title 42, which U.S. border officials have used to expel hundreds of thousands of migrants without court hearings or asylum screenings since March 2020, when the Trump administration enacted the policy.

The Biden administration has strongly defended the emergency Trump-era policy, arguing it is needed to avert coronavirus outbreaks inside migrant holding facilities. Unlike the Trump administration, the Biden administration has not been using Title 42 to expel unaccompanied migrant children.

During President Biden’s tenure, U.S. authorities along the southern border have used Title 42 to expel most single adult migrants. However, they have been expelling smaller percentages of families than in the Trump administration, largely due to Mexico’s reluctance to accept young, non-Mexican children.

In August, for example, U.S. border officials encountered 86,000 migrant parents and children traveling as families. Roughly 80% of them were processed under immigration law and allowed to seek U.S. refuge, while the rest were expelled under Title 42, according to Customs and Border Protection data.

“Nothing stops the Biden administration from immediately repealing this horrific Trump-era policy,” Gelernt added. “If the administration is making the political calculation that if it acts inhumanely now it can act more humanely later, that calculation is misguided and of little solace to the families that are being sent to Haiti or brutalized in Mexico right now.”

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Camilo Montoya-Galvez