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Supreme Court Blocks Title 42 Expiration at Border States’ Plea

Chief Justice John Roberts temporarily blocked a lower court ruling that would have required the Biden administration to let the public health order expire on Dec. 21 after GOP states filed emergency appeals for intervention.

(TNS) — The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday, Dec. 19, hit pause on the Biden administration's plans to lift a public health order that has been used to expel migrants millions of times, at the urging of Texas and other Republican-led states that argued ending the COVID-19 restrictions would create chaos on the border.

Chief Justice John Roberts temporarily blocked a lower court ruling that required the Biden administration to let the public health order, known as Title 42, expire on Wednesday. The order came after GOP states filed an emergency appeal for the high court to step in, and gives the administration and states more time to make their arguments to the high court.

The slowdown comes as the White House said Monday that it has sent a record number of agents to the border in preparation for a surge in migration when Title 42 ends. The Department of Homeland Security said in a statement that it will "continue our preparations to manage the border in a safe, orderly, and humane way" while the Supreme Court considers the case.

The administration has been under pressure from Texas Republicans and some Democrats for weeks to do more to prepare for tens of thousands of asylum-seekers expected to try to enter the country.

Republican Gov. Greg Abbott used a national television appearance over the weekend to warn of "total chaos" if the order is lifted, arguing the nation still doesn't know the health status of thousands of people trying to cross the border.

"That almost by definition is a public health risk," Abbott told ABC News' Martha Raddatz. "There's every reason to keep that in place."

The White House said it has dispatched 23,000 Border Patrol agents and 1,000 processing coordinators to the southern border, added new ground detection systems and automated surveillance towers. The Border Patrol has also stood up 10 soft-sided facilities to hold migrants in anticipation of the end of Title 42.

The Biden administration says it is also planning to more quickly deport migrants who do not qualify for asylum and more aggressively prosecute repeat offenders and smugglers as it returns to the asylum laws that were in place before the pandemic.

"We will continue to fully enforce our immigration laws in a fair, orderly and humane manner," White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said. "It would be wrong to think the border is open. It is not open."

The White House has also asked Congress for $3.5 billion to add 300 more agents, scale up air and ground transportation to move migrants from border cities, and send more support to cities such as El Paso, where the mayor declared a state of emergency over the weekend.

Congress is working to pass a government funding bill by the end of the year, but it is unclear whether that includes the additional money sought by the White House.

The request comes as members of Congress and Texas leaders have urged the administration to find a way to keep the public health order in place. They have said as many as 50,000 migrants are waiting to cross the border.

Senior U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan, who ordered the end of Title 42 after finding the government's suspension of asylum laws under the health code "arbitrary and capricious," wrote in his ruling last month that the government had not shown that the risk of migrants spreading COVID-19 was "a real problem," as Abbott warned.

Sullivan wrote that the suspension of immigration under Title 42 covered only about 0.1 percent of land border travelers and that millions of others have been permitted to cross the border under less restrictive measures.

Abbott, who won re-election in November, is far from alone in his dire predictions. U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, a Democrat from Laredo, signed onto a letter this month to the White House warning of "complete loss of operational control over the southern border" if Title 42 is lifted Wednesday.

Cuellar said during an appearance on CBS' "Face the Nation" that he's not confident the White House has a real plan in place to deal with the surge of migration on the border if Title 42 is lifted. He said the administration has plans for providing food, shelter and transportation but is lacking a fuller plan.

"Are they prepared? No," Cuellar said of federal border officials.

Cuellar called on Biden to require asylum-seekers to go through the international bridges to request protection or be sent back to Mexico.

"If it (Title 42) goes away, they have to have a policy of an orderly pathway to asylum through our bridges, and if they don't follow that pathway, they need to go back," Cuellar said.

Texas has a 1,254-mile border with Mexico that includes 25 international bridges.

The Department of Homeland Security last week released a seven-page document detailing its efforts to handle the end of the order, which included surging resources to the border, going after smugglers and creating new legal pathways for asylum-seekers to come to the United States.

The plan pointed to a new parole process the administration launched in October to handle a surge of Venezuelans seeking asylum in the U.S. Those who entered the country illegally were sent back to Mexico under the new process, while those who qualified for asylum were flown into the country. DHS says the new process saw encounters with Venezuelans at the border drop from 1,100 per day to fewer than 100 per day.

Texas military leaders Monday activated a unit of the state's Air National Guard and announced plans to station more than 400 personnel in El Paso by Monday afternoon.

To speed the deployment of soldiers and equipment to the border city, officials are using four cargo planes from the National Guard's Fort Worth-based air unit. Among those being sent to the border are a "security response force" of the National Guard, whose members are trained in "mass migration response" and "civil disturbance operations," according to a news release from the Texas Military Department.

The developments come two days after El Paso Mayor Oscar Leeser declared a state of emergency, citing concerns about the city's ability to accommodate the crowd the federal government has anticipated.

The declaration allows the city to tap into additional resources that are expected to become necessary if Title 42 is not extended beyond Wednesday.

Border Patrol statistics from October show the El Paso region and the Del Rio area have become the most traversed sectors of the border as the nation prepares to lift Title 42. The Border Patrol encountered more than 53,000 migrants that month in the El Paso sector, which includes the New Mexico border as well. There were about 42,000 encounters in the Del Rio sector, which includes Eagle Pass, during the same period.

(c)2022 the San Antonio Express-News. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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