More than 1.7 million people have already been expelled under the Trump-era policy, which prevents immigrants from seeking asylum in the United States.
On Monday, three Republican state attorneys general announced that they filed a lawsuit to prevent President Joe Biden's administration from rescinding an order put in place under former President Donald Trump. The order has already led to over 1.7 million migrants being expelled from the United States.
The order, Title 42, permits U.S. immigration officials to quickly expel migrants before they have a chance to formally apply for asylum. The law was enacted in 1944 with the intent of restricting immigration during times of public health emergencies as a way of limiting the spread of disease.
The lawsuit is being brought by Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, and Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry. Schmitt and Brnovich are both currently running for U.S. Senate.
In their suit, the states' top law enforcement officials allege that removing the order removes a "safety valve" preventing the Biden administration's border policies "from devolving into an unmitigated catastrophe."
The Trump administration cited the emergency situation surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic as its reasoning for enacting the provision in March 2020. Since the policy was enacted by Trump, more than 1.7 million people have been expelled and denied an asylum hearing.
After the order was authorized by Trump, a coalition of public health experts repeatedly decried it as unnecessary. The order was also opposed by the American Civil Liberties Union, which filed suit in federal court multiple times against the policy and its initial continuation under Biden.
Despite Title 42 being invoked, millions of people in the United States still contracted the virus, and hundreds of thousands died. More than 385,000 Americans died from COVID-19 in 2020, according to the CDC. Another 590,000 Americans died from the virus in 2021 and 2022.
In a May 2020 letter, a coalition of leaders from public health schools, medical schools, and hospitals wrote to the CDC to protest the provision, noting the rule was "being used to target certain classes of noncitizens rather than to protect public health."
A July 2021 investigation by Physicians for Human Rights found that the policy resulted in violations of human rights and trauma for both children and adults affected by the expulsions. Expelled asylum-seekers interviewed by the group said they had subsequently been kidnapped, assaulted, extorted, and subjected to physical and sexual violence.
Republicans have repeatedly attacked President Joe Biden for reversing Trump's policies that severely restricted immigration, including revoking his so-called "travel ban," an executive order that suspended the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program and barred people from six majority-Muslim countries from entering the United States.
The outcry against rescinding the asylum ban stands in contrast to calls by Republicans to rescind restrictions put in place during the pandemic. For instance, in February, Schmitt complained of "COVID tyrants" who support policies like mask mandates.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced on Friday that the order would be withdrawn on May 23. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said in her order that COVID-19 spread via migrants apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border had "ceased to be a serious danger to the public health."
"After considering current public health conditions and an increased availability of tools to fight COVID-19 (such as highly effective vaccines and therapeutics), the CDC Director has determined that an Order suspending the right to introduce migrants into the United States is no longer necessary," the agency said in a statement.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas noted in a statement that same day that the department has "put in place a comprehensive, whole-of-government strategy to manage any potential increase in the number of migrants encountered at our border" after the order is rescinded.
The Biden administration previously announced that migrants would be vaccinated at the southern border to help stop the spread of the virus.
"Focusing on immigrants, expelling them or what have you, is not the solution to an outbreak," Dr. Anthony Fauci noted in October in an interview with CNN.
Physicians for Human Rights welcomed the decision by the Biden administration, describing the policy in a statement as "scientifically baseless and politically motivated" and saying that it had "severely harmed the health and human rights of children, families, and single adults." The group had previously criticized the Biden administration for not ending the policy sooner.
Prior to invoking Title 42, Trump's immigration advisers — led by senior White House adviser Stephen Miller — had been searching for a way to use public health laws and policy to restrict immigration to the United States. The New York Times reported in May 2020 that a health-related path to immigration restrictions was on Miller's "wish list," according to a Trump administration official.
Before joining the White House, Miller had a history of advocating for white supremacist causes and promoted white supremacist propaganda, including a racist book on the debunked "white genocide" conspiracy theory.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.