Hundreds march for immigration reform in Milwaukee organized by Voces de la Frontera. (Voces director Christine Neumann Ortiz, center) Photo by Isiah Holmes
A federal judge in Louisiana said Monday he will block the Biden administration from lifting a public health order that keeps immigrants seeking asylum out of the United States.
U.S. District Judge Robert R. Summerhays told Republican state attorneys general and the federal government that he planned to grant the Republicans’ request for a temporary restraining order. It would stop President Joe Biden from ending the policy known as Title 42, first put in place during the Trump administration.
The administration had said it would end next month the emergency order that allowed immigration authorities to expel those seeking asylum.
But the decision has brought condemnation from Republicans and pushback from some members of Biden’s own party, who say there needs to be a comprehensive plan in place to deal with expected higher numbers of migrants when the order ends. The Department of Homeland Security says it also faces a funding shortfall.
Summerhays granted the order during a virtual status conference Monday. A summary of that meeting said the states and federal agencies would “attempt to reach agreement” on the specific terms of the order.
The summary did not include details of Summerhays’ legal reasoning. Former President Donald Trump appointed Summerhays to the federal judgeship in Louisiana, where he has served since 2018.
The Trump administration first put Title 42 in effect during the first wave of pandemic restrictions in March 2020. Seeking to block carriers of coronavirus from entering and staying in the country, the order allowed the Department of Homeland Security to remove immigrants seeking asylum.
More than 1 million migrants have been expelled under the policy, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said early this month it would lift Title 42 on May 23. The agency determined, with higher vaccination rates in the country and around the world, migrants no longer posed a sufficient public health threat to continue the policy.
Attorneys general in Arizona, Louisiana and Missouri sued early this month to block that action. Eighteen other states, including Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, Ohio, Idaho, Nebraska, Montana and Kansas, joined in the last three weeks.
Although public health amid a pandemic was the rationale for imposing the policy more than two years ago, opponents of its removal have argued it should remain in place to stem immigration.
“This is a huge victory for border security,” Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt wrote on Twitter Monday. “But the fight continues on.”
Christine Neumann-Ortiz, executive director of the Milwaukee-based immigrant workers’ rights group Voces de la Frontera, warned that there would be “major consequences for Democrats in the midterm elections” if they “cave into racism because of cowardice. It’s not that people are then going to vote for those who are blocking immigration reform or are giving into hate mongering, but people will just drop out.” Neumann-Ortiz added in an interview with UpFront, the Sunday news show on WISN channel 12.
“There’s no basis for it,” Neumann-Ortiz added, referring to Title 42. “The whole idea was this was in response to the pandemic. When CDC, public health officials, human rights officials said there is no scientific health basis to this, and so the only basis to move away, step away from our existing asylum process was an anti-immigrant, racist policy.”
Voces will take part in a national day of action on May 1, during which immigrant essential workers and families will demand that President Biden and Congress “do everything they can to protect all immigrants in this country and dismantle the cruel, xenophobic policies of past administrations,” according to a statement from the group.
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Ruth Conniff contributed to this story from Wisconsin.
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