On Thursday, a federal judge ordered the Biden administration to stop expelling migrant families with children detained at the U.S.-Mexico border. The expulsions were previously justified under a Trump-era public health policy, Title 42, which allowed officials to force undocumented migrants out of the country to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in holding facilities. The administration’s processing of unaccompanied minors, who remained exempt from Title 42 even as it was indefinitely extended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in August, proved to the court that the government had “successfully implemented mitigation measures” to minimize the risk of virus transmission. The 58-page ruling determined that the exemption should therefore be extended to all families with children. Single adults will still be subject to the order.
Title 42, which was established in the early months of the pandemic, has been roundly criticized by immigrant advocates, attorneys, and health experts. Since its invocation, more than 958,000 asylum seekers have been expelled back across the southern border. “This decision validates what we already know: Title 42 is an illegal and immoral policy based on xenophobia, not science. The court's ruling today makes it clear that the expulsions of vulnerable families into harm's way will not stand,” Noah Gottschalk, Oxfam America’s global policy lead, said in a statement.
The judge’s ruling will take effect in 14 days.