Judge delays rollback of restrictions at border for asylum seekers

Mario Tama/Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) — A federal judge in Louisiana on Friday ordered the Biden administration to continue implementing pandemic-related restrictions at the border that effectively close humanitarian relief options for asylum seekers.

The restrictions were slated to end on Monday.

The restrictions were first implemented under the Trump administration by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention which issued an order that derives its authority from a decades-old public health law known as Title 42.

The ruling today grants the GOP-led states’ motion for a preliminary injunction against the Title 42 rollback. The injunction is expected to remain in place until the case concludes, the government fixes its approach or until the government gets a more favorable decision on appeal if one is made.

The decision by Judge Robert R. Summerhays, a Trump appointee, comes as the Biden administration’s homeland security apparatus remains strained by a historic level of unauthorized migration in the southwest.

Immigration authorities arrested and stopped migrants 234,088 times along the southwest border last month, the highest monthly total in the reams of publicly available Customs and Border Protection data. That number includes a 183% increase in the number of inadmissible migrants trying to get through U.S. land ports since March.

During April, DHS says they removed 96,908 migrants under the Title 42 authority and 15,171 migrants under Title 8, which was the primary deportation authority before the pandemic.

It’s unclear what impact the use of Title 42 has on overall migration, despite claims from Republicans in Congress that it works as a successful deterrent.

Suspected unlawful entries at the border have come at a record pace over the past two years that the Title 42 order has been in effect. Meanwhile, the number of repeat border crossing attempts is up nearly fourfold since the first year the Title 42 was implemented.

One explanation behind the increase in repeated unlawful entries is the lack of long-term consequences for those processed and immediately expelled from the U.S. Under normal immigration processing, an order of removal comes with specific restrictions on re-entry and prosecutable consequences for those who try again.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas held meetings with top immigration officials at the border this week as he oversees preparations the department is taking in case the level of migration elevates further. At a press conference to discuss the trip he noted the Justice Department will decide whether to appeal the Louisiana court’s decision.

Mayorkas this week outlined the Department’s plan for the border transition away from Title 42 which involves surging homeland security resources, improving processing capacity and efficiency, ramping up consequences for increased border crossings, cracking down harder on transnational criminal smuggling networks and strengthening alliances across Central and South America.

“We have a multi-pronged approach to a very dynamic situation,” Mayorkas said. “We are addressing it across the Department of Homeland Security, across the federal government with our state and local partners, and with our partners and allies south of our border.”

Mayorkas said authorities will be increasing criminal prosecutions along the southwest border to apply the sort of consequences that Title 42 does not allow, including multi-year bans on re-entry for unauthorized migrants.

ABC News’ Luke Barr contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.