U.S. continues to exempt unaccompanied migrant children from border expulsion policy

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March 12 (Reuters) - The administration of U.S. President Joe Biden said unaccompanied migrant children will continue to not be expelled from the United States under a border policy put in place by former President Donald Trump, in a bid to counter a court challenge to the current practice.

"The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) director is terminating with respect to unaccompanied noncitizen children an Order under Title 42 suspending the right to introduce certain persons into the United States", the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said early on Saturday.

"In effect, this means that unaccompanied noncitizen children will not be expelled from the United States under CDC's order."

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The Title 42 order was issued by the CDC in March 2020 at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic and allowed U.S. authorities to rapidly expel migrant families caught crossing the U.S.-Mexico border without a chance to seek refuge in the United States.

Asylum-seeking migrant children from Central America, who were sent back to Mexico under Title 42 after crossing the border into the U.S. from Mexico, play with a toy car in the public square where hundreds of migrants live in tents, in Reynosa, Mexico, August 27, 2021. REUTERS/Go Nakamura

Since it went into effect, migrants have been turned away more than 1.6 million times under the policy, though some of those encounters were people crossing multiple times.

In a separate 21-page order justifying the decision to end Title 42 for unaccompanied children, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky cited the recent nationwide decrease in COVID-19 cases and increased vaccination rates in the United States and in the countries of migrants who journey to the southern border.

Early in his presidency, Biden exempted unaccompanied children from the expulsion policy, but a federal judge in Texas ruled on March 4 that minors could not be excluded in a case brought by the state of Texas against the administration.

The Texas ruling, which is at odds with another U.S. district court order in 2020 blocking expulsions of unaccompanied children, has put pressure on the administration to consider whether to roll back the order entirely. read more

(This story corrects headline and first paragraph to reflect a continuation of current policy.)

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Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Alistair Bell

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