In a long-awaited verdict, Judge Emmet Sullivan of the District of Columbia District Court acknowledged that the verdict would force the government to make difficult decisions, but ruled that there are sufficient measures to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.
“However, in view of the wide availability of tests, vaccines and other minimization measures, the Court is not convinced that the transfer of COVID-19 during border treatment can not be significantly reduced. In fact, the government has successfully implemented mitigating measures for the treatment of unaccompanied minors. to minimize the risk of COVID-19 transmission, “the 58-page decision states.
The order does not take effect for 14 days. The Biden administration has relied on the public health pandemic order to reject adults and families arrested at the U.S. southern border. Unaccompanied children remain exempt from the policy.
In August, more than 70,000 migrant families were allowed to enter the United States, while about 16,000 were deported, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection data.
Biden has been criticized by immigration advocates, who argued for the policies introduced under the Trump administration, betrayed the country’s stance on receiving asylum seekers and by Republicans who argued that abrupt changes in immigration policy gave rise to migration north.
CNN contacted the Department of Homeland Security for comment.
The American Civil Liberties Union, along with other advocacy groups, filed the class action lawsuit. Omar Jadwat, director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, said in a statement Thursday that the court was “correct to reject it today.”
“President Biden should have ended this cruel and lawless policy a long time ago, and the court rightly rejected it today,” he said in a statement. The ACLU had also challenged to subject the unaccompanied children to the policy, even though they are now exempt.
Since its implementation, more than 958,000 migrants have been rapidly displaced at the U.S. southern border. Since the spring, fewer migrants have been subject to pandemic policy for various reasons.
Single adults will still be covered by the order.
The public health authority, known as Section 42, was invoked at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic and has been criticized by immigrants, lawyers and health experts who claim it has no health basis and puts migrants at risk.
But the Biden administration extended the policy in early August. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said at the time that it would review the latest information on the pandemic and related public health experts every 60 years.
Tensions between immigrant-profiled organizations and the administration have bubbled up in recent months as it became clear that the public health order would remain in place despite an expected closure in July.
“This decision validates what we already know: Section 42 is an illegal and immoral policy based on xenophobia, not science. The court’s ruling today makes it clear that exposing vulnerable families to harm cannot stand,” said Noah Gottschalk, Oxfam America’s global policy leader, in a statement. Oxfam was among the groups challenging the order.
Earlier this year, a handful of immigrant advocacy groups quietly agreed to work with the administration to identify vulnerable migrants in Mexico amid ongoing border restrictions. But they gradually withdrew from the effort, which, they said, was intended to be temporary.
Thursday’s decision is the latest legal setback for the Biden administration in connection with immigration. The Supreme Court also rejected in August the Biden administration’s request that it postpone a lower court order demanding the revival of a Trump-era policy requiring migrants to stay in Mexico until their U.S. immigration court. The policy, informally known as “staying in Mexico”, was suspended at the beginning of Biden’s term and formally terminated months later.
The administration has since launched talks with Mexico on the return of this policy.
This story has been updated with further reporting.