US cannot use health rule to deport migrant families at risk of persecution, court says

WASHINGTON — A public health rule that has blocked many undocumented migrants from entering the country during the pandemic suffered a m...


WASHINGTON — A public health rule that has blocked many undocumented migrants from entering the country during the pandemic suffered a major blow on Friday, when a federal appeals court ruled it could no longer be used to deport families to countries where they would be persecuted or tortured.

decisionissued by a panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, partially upheld a previous decision in an ongoing lawsuit and only applies to migrant families traveling with minor children. Although he allowed the Biden administration to keep the rule in place, the three-judge panel questioned whether it was still necessary, noting that it “resembles in some ways a relic of an era without vaccines, with few tests, few therapeutics and little certainty.

Later Friday, a federal judge in the Northern District of Texas issued a rule which dealt another blow to the Biden administration – ordering the government to stop exempting migrant children who arrive at the border without a parent or guardian from the public health rule. The administration has seven days to lodge an appeal.

Immigration lawyers said the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals ruling means that from now on, migrant families must be given the opportunity to voice their fear of persecution or torture, which could be followed by an interview with an asylum officer or a court date. with an immigration judge – steps that have been widely denied since the public health rule was put in place in March 2020.

The Biden administration may continue to use the rule, known as Title 42, for families who are not persecuted as well as single adults, who have made up the majority of migrants deported under it. Critics said the rule, put in place by President Donald J. Trump, was his most successful effort to restrict asylum.

Even so, many immigration groups, as well as some within the Biden administration, view Friday’s appeals court ruling as the beginning of the end of the public health rule, as the notice of the court could make it more difficult for the administration to justify that single adults who are persecuted or tortured should be deported.

After the ruling was released, some Department of Homeland Security officials were called in to join a call with department secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas to discuss “the end of Title 42,” according to a person familiar. with the internal discussion, who spoke on condition of anonymity in order to discuss internal matters.

Lee Gelernt of the American Civil Liberties Union, one of the plaintiffs’ lead attorneys in the case, called Friday’s development a “great victory.”

He said Texas’ decision, however, was “wrong and brutal, sending young children to great harm on their own.”

Immigration and human rights advocates said President Biden followed Mr Trump in using the rule to control illegal immigration, a political vulnerability for him – not to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

“It was signed into law by the Trump administration and withheld by the Biden administration so they wouldn’t have to screen people for persecution,” Mr. Gelernt said, “and could just onboard families immediately into planes bound for Haiti and other dangerous countries without determining what would happen to them.”

One of the most publicized examples occurred last September, when thousands of Haitians were deported to their country without being given the opportunity to explain why they feared returning to an impoverished country that has suffered natural disasters and, in some areas, is ruled by gangs.

These last weeks, lawmakers from the president’s own party pressured the administration to lift the rule. Human rights advocates said the Texas decision made the lifting of the rule even more critical.

The Biden administration did not respond to questions about the decision or the government’s next steps.

White House officials said it was up to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to decide when the public health rule could be lifted. The agency’s next review of the policy will be in April. Brandon Judd, the head of the Border Patrol union, said officers learned the rule would go away in April.

The Biden administration has kept order in place for all migrants except children who arrive at the border without a parent or guardian, though in practice the government has allowed many families to stay despite the rule. . Since the rule was in place, more than 190,000 migrant children without parents or guardians have been allowed into the country and placed in shelters before being reunited with family members or other sponsors.

While more than 181,000 migrant families have been deported under the public health rule, many more have been allowed into the country to face deportation proceedings for a variety of reasonsincluding humanitarian exceptions.

Many Republicans praised the rule’s use and called it a successful policy. Last year, Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, introduced legislation to make it a law.

Critics of the rule, including a number of public health experts, have said there is no public health benefit to deporting migrants to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in the United States, especially now. The appeals court seemed to agree.

“Certainly, as with most things in life, no one approach to Covid-19 can eliminate all risk,” the panel wrote. “But from a public health perspective, based on the limited record we have, it’s far from clear that the CDC order serves any purpose.”

While the number of Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations have been declining recently in the United States, the number of migrants trying to enter the country has not decreased significantly. Officials expect even more to come this year than last.

And Title 42 deportations have proven to be an effective way to deport undocumented immigrants at a time when record numbers are crossing the southwest border.

“While this decision can be seen as a victory for both parties, it is an event that has nothing to do with a train rolling down the tracks,” said RJ Hauman, the Federation’s government relations manager for US immigration reform, a conservative group. “As serious as the current border crisis is, without Title 42 it would be much worse.”

Mr Judd, the head of the Border Patrol union, said Friday’s appeals court ruling would not have an immediate effect on border operations because most migrant families are already allowed to enter the country to face removal proceedings. But if authority goes away completely, he said, “it’s not going to be good.”

Officials argued that border agents are overwhelmed and that existing border crossings are not able to retain all migrants who need to be welcomed into the country, a resource and time-intensive process. Some border agents fear that without the rule in place, they will be completely overwhelmed and buried in paperwork instead of patrolling the border.

Interviewing migrants about their fears of torture or persecution can take days or even a week, and requires a space where migrants can be humanely held until they can be interviewed, said Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, political adviser to American Immigration Council.

“Given these operational realities, it will be incredibly difficult to conduct reasonable fear interviews for families,” Reichlin-Melnick said, adding that “the most likely outcome would simply be to release families who express fear.” of persecution.”

Most often it is single adults who are turned away, including many repeat travelers who have so far not been penalized for being caught more than once. The government estimates that around 30% of those caught crossing the south-west border illegally have already been.

One idea being considered in the administration is to start penalizing repeat offenders and detaining them, according to whoever is familiar with the internal discussions.

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Newsrust - US Top News: US cannot use health rule to deport migrant families at risk of persecution, court says
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