Republican states challenge repeal of pandemic migrant expulsion policy

Migrants from Peru and Guatemala seeking asylum in the U.S. cross the border from Mexico, at Yuma, Arizona, U.S., January 21, 2022. REUTERS/Go Nakamura
  • States say ending policy will cause surge in migration, COVID
  • Biden initially retained Trump-era policy despite criticisms

April 4 - Three Republican-led states on Monday sued the Biden administration over its withdrawal of a policy allowing for the quick expulsion of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border amid the COVID-19 pandemic, claiming it will lead to "unmitigated chaos and catastrophe."

The complaint filed in Louisiana federal court by the attorneys general of Arizona, Missouri and Louisiana says the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention flouted federal law by failing to consider a surge in migration that is expected to result from ending the 2020 policy known as Title 42, at a time when border crossings are already breaking records.

The states said the CDC, which announced on Friday that Title 42 would remain in effect until May 23, violated the law by not seeking public comment before deciding to eliminate the policy.

The CDC and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which is also named as a defendant, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Title 42 was originally issued in March 2020 at the start of the pandemic to stem the spread of COVID-19. More than 1 million migrants and asylum seekers have been rapidly expelled under the policy since then.

President Joe Biden, a Democrat, kept the policy in place after taking office last year, despite fierce criticism from immigrant advocates and his own party.

Opponents of Title 42 have said it denies migrants their legal rights and that scientific evidence does not support the government's claims that the policy limits the spread of the virus.

The Biden administration last week said Title 42 is no longer necessary after a drop in COVID-19 cases and because of the widespread availability of vaccines and therapeutics. DHS said it will set up additional temporary facilities to handle any influx in border crossings.

But in Monday's lawsuit, the states said the administration did not address the potential impacts of a surge in migration on states and border communities, or the risk that migrants could spread dangerous COVID-19 variants.

The states are seeking an order barring the federal government from terminating the policy.

A federal judge in September blocked Title 42, saying the CDC lacked the authority to adopt it. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit last month reversed that decision, but said migrants cannot be expelled to places where they face persecution or torture.

The case is Arizona v. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana, No. 6:22-cv-00885.

For the states: Louisiana Solicitor General Elizabeth Murrill

For the federal government: Not available

Read more:

U.S. to end COVID order blocking asylum seekers at border with Mexico

U.S. preps for possible spike in border crossings, as officials mull lifting COVID curbs

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Dan Wiessner (@danwiessner) reports on labor and employment and immigration law, including litigation and policy making. He can be reached at daniel.wiessner@thomsonreuters.com.