High Court Temporarily Blocks Lifting of US Asylum Restrictions
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The Supreme Court is temporarily blocking an order that would lift pandemic-era restrictions on asylum seekers but the brief order leaves open the prospect that the restrictions in place since the coronavirus pandemic began and have been used to turn back hundreds of thousands of prospective asylum seekers could still expire on Wednesday.
The court's decision comes as officials and aid groups along the border are trying to prepare for whatever changes may or may not come Wednesday.
In the city of El Paso, Mayor Oscar Leeser said they've received information from Border Patrol and shelters just across the border in Mexico indicating that up to 20,000 migrants might be waiting to cross into El Paso. The Red Cross has brought 10,000 cots to help with the increase, he said.
The order Monday by Chief Justice John Roberts — who handles emergency matters that come from federal courts in the nation’s capital — comes as conservative states are pushing to keep the limits on asylum seekers that were put in place to stem the spread of COVID-19. The states appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court in a last-ditch effort before the restrictions are set to expire Wednesday, saying that lifting the limits on asylum seekers would cause irreparable harm to their states.
In the one-page order, Roberts granted a stay pending further order and asked the government to respond by 5 p.m. Tuesday. That is just hours before the restrictions are slated to expire on Wednesday.
The order by Roberts means the high-profile case that has drawn intense scrutiny at a time that the Republicans are set to take control of the House and make immigration a key issue will go down to the wire.
The immigration restrictions, often referred to as Title 42, were put in place under then-President Donald Trump in March 2020 and have prevented hundreds of thousands of migrants from seeking asylum in the U.S. in recent years. But as they’re set to expire, thousands more migrants are packed in shelters on Mexico’s border with the U.S.
Conservative-leaning states have argued that lifting Title 42 will lead to a surge of migrants into their states and take a toll on government services like health care or law enforcement. They also charge that the federal government has no plan to deal with an increase in migrants.
“This Court’s review is warranted given the enormous national importance of this case. It is not reasonably contestable that the failure to grant a stay will cause an unprecedented calamity at the southern border,” the states wrote in their request Monday.
Immigration advocates have said that the use of Title 42 goes against American and international obligations to people fleeing to the U.S. to escape persecution. And they’ve argued that things like vaccines and treatments for the coronavirus have made the policy outdated. They sued to end the use of Title 42; a federal judge in November sided with them and set the December 21 deadline.
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