The U.S. Supreme Court gave the green light Tuesday to indefinitely continue the so-called Title 42 policy, a Trump-era order that allows migrants to be expelled on health grounds.
In a 5-4 vote, the justices decided to accept an emergency request from several states and Republican attorneys general, who a week ago asked the Court to intervene to uphold the policy.
Conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch joined the three liberals in voting against the request.
The Court announced that it will hear the case in February, so the policy will remain in place until the justices decide on its future, expected by the summer.
In a statement, the White House said it will comply with the order and prepare “for the Court’s review.”
“At the same time, we are moving forward with our preparations to manage the border in a secure, orderly and humane manner when Title 42 is finally eliminated and continue to expand legal avenues for immigration,” the text added.
The decision represents a reversal of lower court rulings.
A federal judge had previously called the policy “arbitrary and capricious” and had ordered it ended by Dec. 21.
Then, an appeals court also rejected several states’ request not to end Title 42, so Arizona, Louisiana, Missouri, Alabama, Alabama, Alaska, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming appealed to the highest court.
Chief Justice John Roberts, who handles emergency matters coming from the federal courts in the capital, then issued a stay to give the court time to further consider the arguments of both sides.
The federal government, for its part, had asked the Supreme Court to reject the states’ effort, although, at the same time, it acknowledged that ending the restrictions abruptly would likely lead to “disruptions and a temporary increase in illegal border crossings.”
What is Title 42
Title 42 is a health policy that was activated on March 20, 2020 as part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) measures to prevent the entry of coronavirus-infected migrants, but has remained in place despite the easing of restrictions globally.
Organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) had argued that maintaining it exposed asylum-seeking migrants to dangers in the Mexican cities to which they were sent.
The Supreme Court’s decision comes as thousands of migrants arrive on the Mexican side of the border, which has stretched shelters to capacity and led to resource shortages to deal with such a massive influx of people.
Border cities on the U.S. side, particularly El Paso, Texas, have declared an emergency and authorities have even deployed the National Guard to try to stem the flow of migrants.
While Title 42 is not the main cause of removals at the border, according to data from Customs and Border Protection (CBP), both the previous and current administrations have used it to contain the migration crisis.
Since it was implemented in 2020, the questionable policy has denied more than 2.5 million admissions of migrants seeking asylum. Of these, between 15% and 20% are foreigners who have had more than one encounter with federal immigration authorities and have been turned away.
With information from Univision