WASHINGTON (AP) – The Supreme Court is keeping pandemic-era limits on asylum in place for now, dashing hopes of migrants who have been fleeing violence and inequality in Latin America and elsewhere to reach the United States (US).
Tuesday’s ruling preserves a major Trump-era policy that was scheduled to expire under a judge’s order on December 21. The case will be argued in February and a stay imposed last week by Chief Justice John Roberts will remain in place until the justices make a decision.
The limits, often known as Title 42 in reference to a 1944 public health law, were put in place under then-President Donald Trump at the beginning of the pandemic but unwinding it has taken a torturous route through the courts. The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention attempted to end the policy in April 2022 but a federal judge in Louisiana sided with 19 Republican-led states in May to order it kept in place.
Another federal judge in Washington said in November that Title 42 must end, sending the dispute to the Supreme Court. Officials have expelled asylum-seekers inside the US 2.5 million times on grounds of preventing the spread of COVID-19.
Immigration advocates sued to end the policy, saying it goes against American and international obligations to people fleeing to the US to escape persecution. The Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision comes as thousands of migrants have gathered on the Mexican side of the border.
Co-founder of non-profit immigration aid organization Team Brownsville in South Texas, Andrea Rudnik, said there are thousands of migrants camped on cardboard boxes and in makeshift tents near the entrance of the Gateway International Bridge in Matamoros, Mexico, without food, water, clothing or bathrooms.
The Supreme Court’s decision said that the court will review the issue of whether the states have the right to intervene in the legal fight over Title 42. Both the federal government and immigration advocates have argued that the states waited too long to intervene.
Justices Neil Gorsuch and Ketanji Brown Jackson said the “current border crisis is not a COVID crisis and courts should not be in the business of perpetuating administrative edicts designed for one emergency only because elected officials have failed to address a different emergency.
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said on Tuesday that President Joe Biden’s administration “will comply with the order and prepare for the Court’s review and at the same time, we are advancing our preparations to manage the border in a secure, orderly, and humane way when Title 42 eventually lifts and will continue expanding legal pathways for immigration,” Jean-Pierre added.