Decision by Biden administration officials to exempt unaccompanied minors of a Trump-era directive that was used by US border officials to quickly deport hundreds of thousands of migrants amid the coronavirus pandemic was thrown out by a federal judge in Texas on Friday.
U.S. District Court Judge Mark Pittman granted a plea by Republican officials in Texas to stop the Biden administration from exempting migrant children traveling without their parents from the pandemic-era deportation rule known as the Title 42, a component of the US Public Health Act.
The latest court success for the Texas Republican government, which has launched numerous challenges to President Biden’s immigration and border policies since taking office, was Friday’s verdict of Pittman, who was nominated by the former president Trump in 2019.
After thwarting a proposed 100-day pause on deportations in January, Texas successfully convinced a federal court to order US border agents back into the Trump-era program that allows migrants to wait for their hearings. asylum in Mexico.
Hours after the federal appeals court’s decision to stop the Biden administration from using Title 42 to send migrant families traveling with children back to areas where they could be harmed or tortured, Pittman issued a decision rejecting the government’s request. So far, this order has not been executed.
The Title 42 policy, which was first implemented in March 2020, allows U.S. immigration authorities to deport migrants to Mexico or their home country without assessing them for asylum or allow them to appear before a judge. According to government data, more than 1.6 million deportations of migrants have taken place so far.
According to the Biden administration’s rationale for keeping Title 42 deportations in place, the coronavirus is spreading through border detention centers. Under Vice President Biden, US border agents used Title 42 to deport most adult migrants and some families with young people.
Due to their special status as unaccompanied minors, the Biden administration chose not to deport them. Instead, as required by a 2008 anti-trafficking law, authorities sent unaccompanied minors to shelters under the supervision of the Department of Health and Human Services.
Unaccompanied minors who are in the care of HHS stay there until they are reunited with sponsors, usually family members in the United States. Immigrant benefits, such as visas for children who have been abused, neglected, or abandoned, can help them stay in the United States permanently.
He claimed Friday that the Biden administration failed to adequately defend last summer’s Title 42 exemption for unaccompanied teenagers, calling it “arbitrary and capricious” in violation of federal administrative law, guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Additionally, Pittman acknowledged that migrant children who have not been deported could spread the coronavirus.
Unaccompanied foreign children positive for COVID-19 are now exempt from Title 42 procedures, which were instituted to stop the spread of the virus, the president said in a 37-page order.
According to the Biden administration, all unaccompanied minors are tested for coronavirus upon transfer to HHS, which has also administered vaccinations to vaccine-eligible minors.
Title 42 exclusions, Pittman said on Friday, have cost Texas money in terms of education and medical care for migrant children who have moved to the state.
Fiscal year 2021 saw a record number of unaccompanied minors crossing the US-Mexico border. An all-time high: HHS shelters housed more than 122,000 people, the most in a single year.
In light of Friday’s court ruling, it is unclear whether the government will begin deportations of unaccompanied youths. Before a federal judge blocked the practice in November 2020, nearly 16,000 unaccompanied minors had been deported under Title 42 during the Trump administration.
Asked how the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) would comply with Friday’s court ruling, DHS officials did not immediately respond to questions. For a period of seven days, Pittman suspended his order to allow the government to appeal. A Justice Department inquiry, which would file the appeal, was not dismissed.
The “heartbreaking testimonies” of children she interviewed after they were deported were cited by attorney Neha Desi of the National Center for Youth Law, who is representing migrant teenagers in a landmark trial.
“This decision will put thousands of children at risk,” Desai told CBS News, “forcing the Biden administration to prevent unaccompanied children from seeking protection at our borders.” Prohibiting minors from seeking refuge and being deported in case of danger of death has no public health objective.