Louisiana Judge Hears Oral Arguments in Challenge to Title 42 Termination

May 14, 2022 by Reece Nations
Louisiana Judge Hears Oral Arguments in Challenge to Title 42 Termination
Robert R. Summerhays, then-President Donald Trump's nominee for District Judge for the Western District of Louisiana gives testimony during a U. S. Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington on Wednesday, April 11, 2018. (AP Photo/Harry Hamburg, File)

LAFAYETTE, La. — Judge Robert Summerhays of the U.S. District Court for Western Louisiana heard arguments on Friday in a federal lawsuit that seeks to delay the planned end of the Title 42 migrant expulsion public health authority.

Lawyers for a coalition of states made their case for keeping Title 42 in place by contending that the Biden administration should not have announced the authority’s termination prior to implementing an immigration plan to deal with the expected increase in southern border crossings. 

The states’ lawyers argued that the decision to revoke Title 42 was made without an appropriate period for notice and comment, and that lawmakers should get more time to evaluate the Department of Homeland Security’s border plan.

In response, lawyers for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention argued that the agency made its decision because the public health authority is no longer needed at this stage in the pandemic. Attorneys with the Center for Immigration Law and Policy at the UCLA School of Law and the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild are seeking to intervene in the case, arguing that any injunction the court orders in the case should be limited in geographic scope.

“We know that Title 42 and its continued implementation continues to cause unspeakable harm to [the defendants], but also to countless other families who are seeking nothing more than safety for themselves,” Monika Langarica, staff attorney for UCLA’s Center for Immigration Law and Policy, said in a call with reporters. “Arizona and Texas continue to seek a nationwide injunction which would prevent the termination of Title 42 from taking effect. They seek an injunction that would apply along the entire border despite the fact that states like California and New Mexico are not parties to this lawsuit.”

Attorneys for 24 states, most of which are led by Republicans, have signed on in support of the lawsuit. Summerhays declined to issue an immediate ruling in the case but said he planned to issue a ruling before Title 42’s planned rescission on May 23.

Summerhays had previously issued a temporary restraining order prohibiting the Biden administration from incrementally rolling back the public health authority before he issues a ruling in the case. In January, the Biden administration defended its use of Title 42 over the objections of immigrant rights advocates and attorneys.

“This court’s decision will impact the lives of thousands of people who are currently stuck outside our borders in very precarious circumstances because they are denied their legal and human rights to apply for asylum,” Matt Vogel, supervising attorney at the National Immigration Project, said on Friday. “Title 42 has already cruelly and arbitrarily prevented tens of thousands of people from exercising their right to seek asylum for more than two years and now the federal government has finally taken steps to end this callous [and] cruel policy.”

Vogel said the plaintiff states are attempting to dictate national immigration policy by seeking a nationwide injunction from a judge appointed by former President Donald Trump in Louisiana. Further, Vogel characterized the lawsuit as an attempt to perpetuate Trump’s “racist, cruel anti-immigrant agenda.”

The public health order has led United States Customs and Border Patrol agents to expel over 1.8 million migrants since March 2020, according to CBP data. Many of these individuals could have remained in the country as their asylum claims were processed, but the order permits the expulsion of migrants without having to conduct a credible fear interview.

Immigrant rights advocates have argued that because migrants aren’t granted the opportunity to file asylum claims under the order, it is therefore illegal under international law. In a brief submitted to the court last week, legal counsel for migrant legal service and advocacy organizations said Title 42 subjects credible asylum seekers to kidnapping, rape, extortion, torture and family separation.

The states vying to keep Title 42 in place maintain doing so is necessary to protect the well-being of U.S. citizens and residents. They also listed the monetary costs states would be forced to take on should a surge of migrants overwhelm their health care systems, law enforcement agencies, education systems and social services.

“Defendants’ unlawful termination of the Title 42 policy will induce a significant increase of illegal immigration into the United States, with many migrants asserting non-meritorious asylum claims,” the plaintiffs in Arizona v. CDC wrote in support of Title 42’s continuation. 

“Indeed, press reports state that [the] defendants themselves predict that the termination order will create an unprecedented surge at the border that will overwhelm [the] defendants’ capacity to enforce immigration laws at the border — they predict that the daily number of aliens unlawfully trying to enter the United States will nearly triple.”

Reece can be reached at [email protected].

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