A federal judge blocked the Biden administration from lifting the pandemic border restrictions known as Section 42 next week.
The public health order, which was due to end on Monday, allows immigration authorities to quickly deport migrants at the border without allowing them to seek asylum.
The ruling is a victory for Republican-led states that are pushing to expand restrictions.
More than 20 states signed on to the lawsuit brought by Arizona, Missouri and Louisiana. They argue that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention did not go through the proper process to end Section 42 and should consider the impact on the state health care system and other costs.
U.S. District Judge Robert Summerhays of Louisiana granted the preliminary injunction the states had been seeking, saying they were likely to prevail.
“Today’s ruling is a major victory because Section 42 is one of the few immigration policies that is truly effective,” Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich said in a statement.
The CDC first approved Title 42 restrictions in March 2020, saying they were necessary to stop the spread of COVID-19. In April, the CDC said the restrictions were no longer necessary to protect public health and ended the policy on May 23.
The preliminary injunction was not unexpected. Judge Summer Hayes has already issued a temporary restraining order in the case and said he sympathized with the states’ arguments.
Still, immigration advocates are disappointed.
“Section 42 and this lawsuit were never about public health, but a transparent attempt to end asylum,” said Lee Gelernt, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, which has been challenging the legality of public health orders in a separate case. sex.
“If the administration doesn’t immediately seek to lift the ban, it will say a lot about whether the White House really wants to end Article 42,” Gallente said.
The ban has stranded tens of thousands of migrants in towns south of the U.S.-Mexico border.
The Department of Homeland Security has been preparing for a potential influx of immigrants when Section 42 ends. Earlier this week, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas met with Border Patrol agents in the Rio Grande Valley and pledged to strengthen enforcement of normal U.S. immigration laws when Section 42 is lifted .
“We will increase the number of criminal prosecutions to meet the challenge,” Mayorkas said at a news conference on Tuesday.
Since its implementation by the Trump administration, Section 42 has significantly limited the number of immigrants who can seek asylum at the southern border. But immigrants who are expeditiously deported under the policy are also not subject to criminal prosecution. Mayorkas and other administration officials argue that reinstating those consequences will help deter migrants from crossing the border repeatedly and reduce the number of people at the border.
The Biden administration has faced bipartisan criticism for ending Section 42 as border concerns near record levels.
Immigration authorities encountered more than 234,000 migrants at the southern border in April, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection. This is one of the highest totals on record, although tens of thousands of migrants crossed multiple times and were counted in the total more than once.
The April total also includes more than 20,000 Ukrainians fleeing wars in their home country who entered the United States at the southern border before launching a new program aimed at bringing Ukrainians directly from Europe.
Border Patrol arrests were actually down slightly last month compared to March, to just over 200,000. But that’s still one of the largest monthly totals on record.