Children wait in line for food near El Chaparral plaza in Tijuana, Mexico, in March 2021. File Photo by Ariana Drehsler/UPI | License Photo
Nov. 15 (UPI) -- A federal judge on Tuesday struck down a border policy enacted under former President Donald Trump that was used to turn away more than 1 million asylum seekers at the southern border amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Title 42 of the U.S. Code was issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to greatly limit the entrance of migrants from certain countries into the United States in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. On Tuesday, Judge Emmet Sullivan of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ended the policy, ruling it a violation of the Administrative Procedures Act.
Sullivan called Title 42 "arbitrary and capricious" when he ruled in favor of asylum seekers after they filed a lawsuit against the CDC. The judge's ruling, which goes into effect immediately, supersedes the decision by U.S. District Judge Robert Summerhays of Louisiana, which blocked the Biden administration from lifting the policy in the spring. Summerhays is a Trump-appointed judge.
"With regard to whether defendants could have 'ramped up' vaccinations, outdoor processing and all other available public health measures, the court finds the CDC failed to articulate a satisfactory explanation for why such measures were not feasible," Sullivan wrote in his decision.
The Biden administration responded that the Justice Department will file an unopposed stay motion to delay implementation to allow the government to prepare for an orderly transition to new border policies.
"We know that smugglers will lie to try to take advantage of vulnerable migrants, putting lives at risk," the Department of Homeland Security said in a statement.
The American Civil Liberties Union, the plaintiff in the District of Columbia case, called for the Biden administration to immediately restart asylum processing at the southern border.
"For over two years, the Title 42 policy has unjustly slammed the door on people seeking safety in the United States," Melissa Crow, director of litigation at the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies, said in a statement. "Desperate families, children and adults have been deprived of their right to seek asylum and returned to countries where they face violence, torture, and even death."
Tami Goodlette, director of litigation at the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, said Title 42 was "never about public safety or the pandemic."
"Judge Sullivan's decision sends a clear message to those who try to make their xenophobia into future policies: Seeking asylum is a human right," she said in a statement.
ACLU attorney Lee Gelernt described the decision in a statement as "a huge victory and one that has life-and-death stakes."
"We have said all along that using Title 42 against asylum seekers was inhumane and driven purely by politics. Hopefully this ruling will end this horrific policy once and for all," Gelernt said.
Title 42 was established in 1944 as a way to give the government authority and the means to issue a federal quarantine.
The Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement are yet to make statements about the ruling.
About 2,500 demonstrators gathered across the park from City Hall to protest President Trump's immigration policies after marching from Pershing Square in downtown Los Angeles on February 18, 2017. Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo