US may continue to reject migrant applications for asylum at Mexican border, Supreme Court rules

The US may continue to reject migrant applications for asylum at the Mexican border on public health grounds, the Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday.

Authorities can send migrants back to Mexico and other countries until the court makes a final decision in the case. The justices said they would hear arguments in full in February, but set no deadline for making an ultimate ruling.

Five conservative justices made up the majority in the decision to extend a stay on the policy from last week. Justice Neil Gorsuch joined the three liberal justices opposing the ruling.

At the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, the Trump administration brought back a public health law, known as Title 42, that allowed U.S. border authorities to turn away migrants to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Since then, the law has been used 2.5 million times to return migrants back to Mexico, and many asylum seekers have been turned away before they can even enter the country.

Immigrant rights advocates quickly launched a series of legal challenges against the law, but it has remained in place even after Joe Biden was elected president.

“We are deeply disappointed for all the desperate asylum seekers who will continue to suffer because of Title 42, but we will continue fighting to eventually end the policy,” Lee Gelernt, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union, said.

Attorneys representing 19 states that sued to keep the emergency order in place, argued in court briefs that ending Title 42 with no other plan in place “will cause a crisis of unprecedented proportions at the border.”

Justices Brett Kavanaugh, Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, Amy Coney Barrett and John Roberts agreed.

In their dissent, Gorsuch and Ketanji Brown Jackson argued that there was no longer any public health justification for keeping Title 42 in place.

“The current border crisis is not a COVID crisis,” they wrote. “And courts should not be in the business of perpetuating administrative edicts designed for one emergency only because elected officials have failed to address a different emergency. We are a court of law, not policymakers of last resort.”

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