WASHINGTON — The Biden administration can no longer use a public health rule to justify deporting migrant families who cross the border without papers if doing so would expose them to persecution or torture, according to an appeals committee ruling. Federal delivered on Friday.
At the start of the pandemic, the Trump administration turned to the murky provision of the Public Health Act, known as Title 42, issuing an order that gave border officials the power to immediately turn back migrants. at the southwestern border, even if they were asking for asylum. .
The Biden administration has kept order in place for all migrants except children who arrive at the border without a parent or guardian. Officials said it was up to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to decide when the rule can be lifted. The agency’s next review of the policy will be in April.
“At this time, the executive may deport complainants, but only to places where they will not be persecuted or tortured,” said the decision, issued by a panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia circuit. To convey this, immigration law experts say migrants must tell authorities they risk such an outcome. By law, this is done through a so-called credible fear hearing, a time-consuming and resource-intensive step that immigration officials were largely able to avoid during the pandemic due to the public health rule.
Deportations under Title 42 have proven to be an effective means of deporting undocumented immigrants at a time when record numbers are crossing the southwest border. The Biden administration did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the decision.
The ruling does not apply to single adult migrants – only to families arriving together at the border. But the court’s opinion could make it harder for the administration to justify that no migrant is entitled to express a fear of persecution or violence.
Since the order was put in place in March 2020, more than 181,000 migrant families have been deported under it. But that only represents 25% of the families who have been caught crossing the border since then. Many were allowed to enter the country to face deportation proceedings for various reasons, including humanitarian exceptions.
Critics of the rule, including a number of public health experts, have said there is no public health benefit to deporting migrants to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in the United States. The appeal committee seemed to agree.
“Certainly, as with most things in life, no one approach to Covid-19 can eliminate all risk,” the panel wrote. “But from a public health perspective, based on the limited record we have, it’s far from clear that the CDC order serves any purpose.”
The prescription, he added, “feels in some ways like a relic from an era without vaccines, with few tests, few therapeutics and few certainties.”