WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court Tuesday allowed Title 42, a Trump-era immigration policy put in place when the pandemic broke out to quickly remove asylum seekers at the border, to stay in effect for now, upholding a judge’s ruling that would have finished last. week on hold.

The court voted 5-4 to grant an emergency request from 19 Republican state attorneys general who tried to intervene in defense of the policy. The decision puts on hold a ruling by Washington-based U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan, who said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s implementation of the policy was «arbitrary and capricious.» Sullivan’s ruling was due to take effect last Wednesday.

Conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch joined the three Liberals on the court in voting against the stay request. The brief court order said that while the administration cannot set aside the Title 42 policy, the decision «does not preclude the federal government from taking any action with respect to that policy.»

The Supreme Court also agreed to hear oral arguments in February. and decide whether states can intervene, with a decision expected by the end of June. The policy will remain in effect at least until that ruling is issued.

A US Border Patrol agent instructs migrants who had crossed the Rio Grande into El Paso, Texas, on December 19, 2022.
A US Border Patrol agent instructs migrants who had crossed the Rio Grande into El Paso, Texas, on December 19.John Moore/Getty Images

Gorsuch suggested in a dissenting opinion that the court’s decision to intervene appeared to have more to do with the border crisis than the legal issues in the case, which concerns whether states can intervene in defense of a security-era policy. the pandemic, noting that the claims «do not seriously dispute that the public health justification for the Title 42 orders has lapsed.»

Gorsuch acknowledged that states may have valid concerns, but added that «the current border crisis is not a COVID crisis.»

“And courts should not be in the business of perpetuating administrative edicts designed for an emergency just because elected officials have failed to address a different emergency. We are a court of law, not a legislator of last resort,” she wrote.

The court’s intervention averts what many had predicted would be a further surge of people seeking to enter the US at a time when border crossings are already high. Without the policy, asylum seekers could enter the US, where they could wait years for court dates if they pass their initial interviews with authorities.

Title 42 is strongly supported by Republicans alarmed by the number of people crossing the southern border, and opposed by immigrant rights groups, who say it is inhumane. Some Democrats, including Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, have expressed support for staying in place at least temporarily. Another Democrat, California Governor Gavin Newsom, has warned that the system for handling migrants seeking asylum would be «broken» if Title 42 is eliminated.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement Tuesday that the administration would comply with the Supreme Court’s order as it «advances our preparations to administer the border in a safe, orderly, and humane manner when the Title 42 finally stands up and continues to expand.» legal avenues for immigration.

“Title 42 is a public health measure, not an immigration control measure, and it should not be extended indefinitely,” he added.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Republican who backed the legal challenge, praised the order, saying in a tweet that the high court «handed Texas and the US a huge victory by allowing Title 42 to remain in place after Biden illegally attempted to end this critical policy.»

Chief Justice John Roberts temporarily stayed Sullivan’s ruling on December 19 while the Supreme Court weighed its next steps.

States led by the Republican attorneys general of Arizona and Louisiana filed the emergency request last week, after the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia rejected his request to intervene in an attempt to prevent the policy from being wound up.

The states argued that President Joe Biden’s administration had «abandoned meaningful defense» of the rule, saying it effectively crafted, with the help of lawyers who challenged the policy, a ruling that would end it. As a result, states sought to intervene to keep it in place. The appeals court said in its order that the states waited too long before trying to intervene.

In a separate case, a federal judge blocked the administration’s earlier effort to undo the policy.

Named after a section of US law, Title 42 gives the federal government the power to take emergency measures to keep disease out of the country. Then-President Donald Trump invoked it when the coronavirus pandemic broke out in March 2020, and it has remained in place throughout the Biden administration. As a result, more than 2 million people have been expelled from the country.

Many nationalities and demographic groups have been exempted from the policy, including children traveling alone and some nationalities whose countries refuse to repatriate them, such as Cuba, Nicaragua and, until recently, Venezuela.

Civil rights groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, challenged the policy on behalf of the people affected.

“The Supreme Court has allowed Title 42 to remain in effect temporarily while the case is ongoing, and we continue to challenge this horrible policy that has caused so much harm to asylum seekers that it can no longer be plausibly justified as a public health measure. ”. ACLU attorney Lee Gelernt said in a statement Tuesday.