A federal judge recently ordered the Biden administration to lift asylum restrictions put in place during the Trump administration at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Emmet Sullivan, Senior Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, who was appointed by President Bill Clinton, called the ban “arbitrary and capricious” and ruled that enforcement must end immediately for families and single adults. The Biden administration has not applied Title 42 to children traveling alone.
The Department of Justice within hours of the ruling asked Judge Sullivan to give it five weeks to prepare, and to delay the order taking effect until December 21. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), among other plaintiffs, did not present an opposition to this delay.
“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 wrote of the delay.
Judge Sullivan later agreed “with great reluctance,” saying the five weeks would “enable the government to make preparations to implement” his ruling.
More than 2.4 million migrants have been expelled from the U.S. since Title 42 took effect in March 2020. It essentially denied migrants the right to seek asylum under U.S. and international law on grounds of preventing the spread of COVID. The practice was originally authorized under Title 42 of the 1944 Public Health Services Law.
Judge Sullivan’s ruling appears to conflict with a ruling in May by a federal judge in Louisiana that upheld the asylum restrictions. Before that ruling, U.S. officials said they were planning for as many as 18,000 migrants per day. In May, migrants were stopped an average of 7,800 times per day, the highest rate of the Biden presidency.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said it would use the five-week delay to “prepare for an orderly transition to new policies at the border.”
“We continue to work with countries throughout the western hemisphere to take enforcement actions against the smuggling networks that entice migrants to take the dangerous and often deadly journey to our land borders and to address the root causes of irregular migration that are challenging our hemisphere as a whole,” DHS said.
Lee Gelernt, an ACLU attorney, said Judge Sullivan’s decision supersedes the Louisiana ruling.
“This is an enormous victory for desperate asylum seekers who have been barred from even getting a hearing because of the misuse of public laws,” Gelernt said. “This ruling hopefully puts an end to this horrendous period in U.S. history in which we abandoned our solemn commitment to provide refuge to those facing persecution.”