US Court Has Rejected the Continuation of COVID-19 Asylum Limitations

On Friday, an appeals court ruled that the restrictions that have kept hundreds of thousands of migrants from seeking asylum in the United States in recent years would be allowed to lapse in a matter of days. Meanwhile, thousands more migrants crowded shelters on Mexico’s border with the United States. If no more challenges are filed, the D.C. Circuit Court’s decision implies Title 42 limitations will be repealed as scheduled on Wednesday.

A group of 19 states with Republican majorities was lobbying to preserve the asylum limits put in place by former President Donald Trump at the beginning of the coronavirus crisis. Since March 2020, when COVID-19 was first discovered, 2.5 million asylum seekers have been turned away despite their legal rights under U.S. and international law. Some migrants are waiting out the public health crisis in Mexico.

Immigrant rights groups petitioned to have Title 42 nullified, arguing that by doing so, the United States was betraying its established history and pledges to offer shelter to people around the world escaping persecution. In addition, critics have claimed that Trump used the ban as an excuse to limit immigration and that the rationale is now irrelevant due to the availability of vaccines and other treatments.

A judge agreed with them last month and gave the administration until December 21 to put a halt to the practice. It was conservative states who were fighting to maintain Title 42 in place that pushed for the federal government to become involved in the lawsuit. On Friday night, however, a panel of three judges ruled against the states, stating that they had waited too long.

US Court Has Rejected the Continuation of COVID-19 Asylum Limitations
US Court Has Rejected the Continuation of COVID-19 Asylum Limitations

Attorney General Jeff Landry of Louisiana said they were “disappointed” with the ruling and planned to appeal all the way to the Supreme Court. The Biden administration anticipates a rise in the daily influx of migrants into border cities like El Paso, Texas, if limitations on asylum are relaxed. According to Enrique Lucero, director of migrant relations for the city of Tijuana, Mexico, an estimated 5,000 people are staying in more than 30 shelters in the city.

Nearly 300 migrants, mostly families, slept in the Casa del Migrante in Reynosa, Mexico, close to McAllen, Texas, on bunk beds and on the floor. Rose, a 32-year-old Haitian woman, and her daughter, 1, and son, also 1, had been staying at the shelter for three weeks. Rose, who did not give her last name for fear of retaliation, said she learned about potential changes to U.S. policies along the way.

She stated that she did not mind staying in Mexico for a while longer in order to await the easing of limitations that were instituted at the start of the pandemic and are now a central part of U.S. border enforcement.

“We’re extremely terrified,” Rose said, “because the Haitians are deported.” Rose is worried that if she makes a mistake in her attempt to bring her family to the United States, she will be deported back to Haiti.

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About three thousand migrants are currently residing in tents on concrete slabs and gravel inside Senda de Vida 2, a Reynosa shelter created by an evangelical Christian pastor when his previous shelter was full. Even though it is the middle of December, the sun is still extremely hot, and flies can be seen buzzing about everywhere.

Such shelters provide at least some protection from the cartels that control passage via the Rio Grande and prey upon migrants for the many fleeing turmoils in Haiti, Venezuela, and other countries. On Thursday, almost one hundred migrants who had evaded asylum requirements slept on mats in a big hall provided by Catholic Charities in McAllen before being transported to their loved ones elsewhere in the United States.

Honduran first-time mother Gloria, 22, clutched a paper that read, “Please assist me.” Gloria was eight months pregnant. My English skills are lacking. Gloria, too, was afraid for her safety and did not want her full name or last name used. She was anxious about flying solo to Florida to visit a family friend.

Brownsville, Texas is located over the border from Matamoros, Mexico, and Andrea Rudnik, co-founder of a volunteer-run organization to welcome migrants, was concerned about providing adequate warm outerwear for those traveling from warmer regions. She lamented on Friday that donations to Team Brownsville are down, so “we don’t have enough supplies.”

Title 42, part of a public health statute passed in 1944, extends to all nationalities but has been applied disproportionately to those whom Mexico agrees to take back, including Mexicans, Guatemalans, Hondurans, Salvadorans, and, most recently, Venezuelans.

A court petition by the Justice Department was made public on Friday, and it stated that the number of unaccompanied adult migrants crossing the border illegally had decreased in November. As another example, it didn’t take into consideration families taking small children on the road or kids who were going somewhere without their parents.

The report states that in November, Border Patrol agents along the Mexican border made 143,903 stops of unaccompanied adults, down 9% from 158,639 stops in October and the lowest amount since August. In terms of unaccompanied adults, Nicaraguans have surpassed Cubans to become the second most common nationality at the border.

In November, Border Patrol agents made 3,513 encounters with unaccompanied Venezuelan adults, a significant decrease from the previous month’s total of 14,697. This was evidence of the impact of Mexico’s decision on October 12 to accept Venezuelan migrants who are ejected from the United States.

Fewer than half as many Mexicans as in October (56,088) were stopped by police in November. There were 27,369 adult stops in Nicaragua, an increase from 16,497 in 2016. The number of adult Cubans who were detained increased from 20,744 to 24,690.

On Thursday, a federal judge in Amarillo, Texas, decided that the Trump administration’s policy of forcing asylum claimants to remain in Mexico for their immigration court hearings was illegally reversed by the Biden administration. Though the verdict did not have any immediate effects, it may prove to be a significant setback for the White House in the long run.

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According to White House spokesperson Abdullah Hasan, the Biden administration will try to promote legal channels for migrants while discouraging “disorderly and hazardous migration.” He emphasized that the removal of the Title 42 public health order does not mean that the border is now freely accessible. Whoever says differently is helping human traffickers distribute false information to exploit vulnerable migrants.

Santana filed a report from the capital. This article was co-written by Paul J. Weber in Austin, Texas, and Elliot Spagat in San Diego, both of the Associated Press.

Last Lines

Hundreds of thousands of migrants have been prevented in recent years from requesting asylum in the United States. However, an appeals court ruled on Friday that these limits would be allowed to lapse in a matter of days. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of migrants crammed into shelters along Mexico’s border with the United States.

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