“We gave the Biden administration seven months but now have no choice but to return to court given the danger families are facing and the absence of any plan to immediately end Title 42,” said ACLU’s Lee Gelernt, lead attorney in the litigation, referring to the public health authority, known as Title 42, in a statement.
Last year, at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, the Trump administration invoked the public health authority, which allows border authorities to turn away migrants encountered at the US-Mexico border. Since its implementation, more than 940,000 migrants have been swiftly expelled, according to US Customs and Border Protection.
Immigrant advocacy groups, attorneys and some health experts condemned the policy, arguing that it had no public health basis and resulting in a series of legal challenges. Administration officials have argued that easing, and eventually ending, the policy will be based on public health.
“We have never conveyed or announced a timeline for Title 42,” said White House press secretary Jen Psaki last week when asked about the policy and ongoing border restrictions. “So, nothing has changed in that regard. It remains in place, and it will remain in place as long as that is the guidance from our health and medical experts.”
Monday’s development stems from a lawsuit filed in January when the ACLU and others filed a lawsuit on behalf of migrant families subject to the Trump-era border policy. The ACLU had also challenged subjecting unaccompanied children to the policy, though they are now exempt.
Since February, plaintiffs in the case concerning families have been in negotiations with the government. As part of the litigation, the ACLU has referred some families to be admitted to the United States. “We have gotten thousands of families to safety through the exemption process we negotiated but the goal was always to end the Title 42 policy, not minimize it,” Gelernt said Monday.
But amid uncertainty over the future of the Trump-era public health order, advocacy groups are taking the Biden administration back to court.
“The administration is choosing to treat refugees like political pawns, and so we are eager to return to court so we can end Title 42 for families once and for all,” said Noah Gottschalk, global policy lead for Oxfam America, in a statement. Oxfam America is among the groups challenging the order.
Tensions between pro-immigrant organizations and the administration bubbled up over recent weeks, as it became clear that the public health order would remain in effect after July despite an anticipated wind down.