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COVID border restrictions force migrants to stay after US Supreme Court order

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WASHINGTON/CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico, Dec 19 (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court said on Monday that COVID-era restrictions at the U.S.-Mexico border that have prevented hundreds of thousands of migrants from applying for asylum should be maintained for the time being. with Republicans who have sued.

The restrictions, known as Title 42, were implemented under former Republican President Donald Trump in March 2020 at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and gave border officials the ability to quickly deport migrants to Mexico without being able to seek asylum in the United States.

US President Joe Biden, a Democrat, had campaigned to reverse Trump’s sweeping immigration measures before taking office in 2021, but kept Title 42 in place for more than a year. The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said this year that Title 42 was no longer needed for public health reasons, and the Biden administration has said it wants it to end but will abide by any court rulings.

A federal judge last month ruled title 42 illegal in response to a lawsuit originally brought by migrant asylum seekers represented by the American Civil Liberties Union. The judge set the restrictions to be lifted on Wednesday, December 1. 21.

But a 19-state group with Republican attorneys general sought to overturn that ruling by intervening in the case and presented their request to the conservative-leaning Supreme Court on Monday.

Hours later, Chief Justice John Roberts, in a brief order, issued a stay that will leave Title 42 in place until further court orders. The disputing parties have until Tuesday at 5:00 p.m. ET (22:00 GMT) to respond, the court heard.

After Robert’s action, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said Title 42 “will remain in effect for the time being and persons attempting to enter the United States unlawfully will continue to be deported to Mexico”.

The Biden administration had been bracing for the end of Title 42 on Wednesday, and press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Monday the White House is asking Congress for more than $3 billion to pay for additional staff, technology , immigration detention facilities and transportation at the US-Mexico border.

The push for additional resources came as U.S. officials had been preparing for the possibility of 9,000 to 14,000 people per day attempting to enter the United States if Title 42 were lifted, Reuters and other media reported, roughly double the current rate.

The Biden administration has been evaluating plans to prepare for the end of Title 42, with government officials in private discuss several Trump-style plans to deter people from crossing, including by prohibiting single adults from seeking asylum at the US-Mexico border.

DHS last week updated a six-pillar plan which calls for the expanded use of an expedited eviction process if Title 42 is terminated. The revised DHS plan also suggests there could be an expansion of legal pathways for migrants to enter the country from abroad, similar to a program launched for Venezuelans in October.


Since Biden took office in January 2021, about half of the record 4 million migrants encountered at the US-Mexico border have been deported under Title 42 while the other half have been allowed to enter the United States. to pursue their immigration cases.

Mexico only accepts the return of certain nationalities, including some Central Americans and, more recently, Venezuelans.

For months, El Paso, Texas has been hosting large groups of asylum-seeking migrants, including many Nicaraguans who cannot be deported to Mexico. On Saturday, the city’s mayor declared a state of emergency to remove migrants from city streets as temperatures dropped below freezing.

U.S. Representative Henry Cuellar, a Democrat whose southern district of Texas borders Mexico, said U.S. border officials told him about 50,000 people were waiting in Mexico for the chance to cross.

“If Title 42 remains in place, we must continue to wait,” said Venezuelan migrant Lina Jaouhari, who said she tried to enter the United States from Ciudad Juarez on December 21. 1 but had been sent back to Mexico as 42. “There’s no point in trying to cross again if we know they’ll send us back.”

In El Paso, shelters struggle to support departing immigrants, though many eventually make their way to relatives in other parts of the United States.

Rescue Mission of El Paso, a shelter near the border, housed 280 people last week, well beyond its capacity of 190, with people sleeping on beds and air mattresses in the chapel, library and conference rooms, said Nicole Reulet, marketing for the shelter. director, in an interview with Reuters.

“We have people who we tell them, ‘We don’t have a place,'” she said. “They’re begging for a place on the floor.”

Reporting by Ted Hesson in Washington and Jose Luis Gonzalez in Ciudad Juarez; Additional reporting by Jackie Botts in Oaxaca, Richard Cowan in Washington and Lizbeth Diaz in Tijuana and Nate Raymond in Boston; Editing by Stephen Coates and Bradley Perrett

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