A federal judge is expected to rule this week on whether the Biden administration can lift the Title 42 health policy that has been used by border officials to expel tens of thousands of illegal immigrants.
US District Judge Robert Summerhays heard arguments Friday on a lawsuit filed in April by two dozen Republican state attorneys general who seek to block the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from ending the policy on May 23.
After the hearing in Louisiana, the judge said he would issue an opinion before the order is scheduled to lapse.
Summerhays, an appointee of former President Donald Trump, issued a temporary restraining order last month preventing the Biden administration from lifting the restrictions before he makes a ruling.
The CDC instituted Title 42, which allows authorities to expel nearly all migrants with the intention of stopping the spread of COVID-19 in detention centers, in March 2020 during the Trump administration.
But the agency announced April 1 that the restriction was no longer necessary and provided a seven-week buffer to allow the federal government to “implement appropriate COVID-19 protocols.”
The health order has been used to expel more than 1.7 million migrants since it was implemented.
The Republican officials argued that removing the public health order would lead to a surge in border crossings that would quickly overwhelm states’ law enforcement, education and healthcare systems.
The Biden administration, in turn, claimed Title 42 was a health care policy put in place to prevent the spread of coronavirus and not a measure intended to regulate immigration.
As such, attorneys for the federal government argued, it has no option but to follow CDC guidance and allow it to expire.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has said the government is gearing up for a flood of attempted crossings and suggested that as many as 18,000 migrants could cross the southern border daily once Title 42 ends.
“Title 42 is a public health authority. So what we started to do in September of last year was prepare for its end,” Mayorkas said on CNN’s “State of the Union” earlier this month, later adding: “We’re not projecting 18,000, but what we do in the department is we plan for different scenarios, so we’re ready for anything.”