US court refuses to uphold COVID-19 asylum restrictions

Restrictions that have barred hundreds of thousands of migrants from seeking asylum in the US in recent years were due to be phased out within days, according to an appeals court ruling on Friday, as thousands more migrants filled shelters on Mexico’s border with the US

The DC Circuit Court of Appeals ruling means the restrictions known as Title 42 will still be lifted Wednesday barring further appeals.

A coalition of 19 Republican-leaning states has been pushing to keep asylum restrictions put in place by former President Donald Trump at the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Migrants have been denied the right to seek asylum under US and international law 2.5 million times since March 2020 to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Public health has left some migrants in Mexico waiting.

Immigrant advocates had argued that the US would abandon its long history and obligations to provide sanctuary to people around the world fleeing persecution, and sued to end the use of Title 42. They have also argued that the restrictions are a pretext by Trump for restricting migration, and in any case vaccines and other treatments make that argument obsolete.

Migrants walk past their tents at the Senda de Vida 2 emergency shelter in Reynosa, Mexico, on Thursday, December 15, 2022.
Migrants walk past their tents at the Senda de Vida 2 emergency shelter in Reynosa, Mexico, on Thursday, December 15, 2022.
AP

A judge sided with her last month, setting December 21 as the deadline for the federal government to end the practice. Conservative states trying to maintain Title 42 had pushed to intervene in the case. But a panel of three judges on Friday night dismissed their efforts, saying states had waited too long. The Louisiana Attorney General expressed disappointment with the decision and said he would appeal to the Supreme Court.

Border cities, particularly El Paso, Texas, are facing a daily influx of migrants that the Biden administration expects will increase when asylum restrictions are lifted. Tijuana, Mexico’s largest border city, has an estimated 5,000 people in more than 30 shelters, Enrique Lucero, the city’s director of migrant affairs, said this week.

In Reynosa, Mexico, near McAllen, Texas, nearly 300 migrants — mostly families — huddled together in the Casa del Migrante, sleeping on bunk beds and even on the floor.

Rose, a 32-year-old Haitian woman, has been at the shelter for three weeks with her daughter and 1-year-old son. Rose, who did not give her last name because she fears it could jeopardize her safety and her attempts to seek asylum, said she learned about possible US policy changes during her trip. She said she’s glad to be waiting a little longer in Mexico for restrictions that were put in place at the start of the pandemic and have become a cornerstone of U.S. border enforcement to be lifted.

A migrant from Haiti gets a haircut from another migrant at the Senda de Vida 2 shelter in Reynosa, Mexico on Thursday, December 15, 2022.
A migrant from Haiti gets a haircut from another migrant at the Senda de Vida 2 shelter in Reynosa, Mexico on Thursday, December 15, 2022.
AP

“We’re very scared because Haitians are being deported,” said Rose, who worries that failures in trying to bring her family to the US could result in her being sent back to Haiti.

At Senda de Vida 2, an emergency shelter in Reynosa opened by an evangelical Christian pastor when his first was reaching capacity, about 3,000 migrants live in tents pitched on concrete slabs and gravel. Flies swarm everywhere under a hot sun that burns down even in mid-December.

For the many fleeing violence in Haiti, Venezuela and elsewhere, such shelters offer at least some protection from the cartels that control passage through the Rio Grande and prey on migrants.

In McAllen on Thursday, about 100 migrants who avoided asylum restrictions rested on floor mats in a large hall run by Catholic charities, awaiting transport to families and friends across the United States.

Nearly three thousand people crowd the massive tent complex on cement or gravel on the Rio Grande, just steps from the border with the United States, and many more stand outside hoping to be relatively safe from the cartels that hunt down migrants make.
Nearly three thousand people crowd the huge tent complex on cement or gravel on the Rio Grande, just steps from the United States border.
AP

Gloria, a 22-year-old from Honduras who is eight months pregnant with her first child, held onto a printed sheet that read, “Please help me. I don’t speak English.” Gloria also didn’t want her last name used, fearing for her safety. She expressed concerns about navigating to the airport alone and making it to Florida, where she has a family acquaintance.

Andrea Rudnik, co-founder of an all-volunteer association welcoming migrants in Brownsville, Texas, across the border from Matamoros, Mexico, was concerned about having enough winter coats for migrants from warmer climates.

“We don’t have enough supplies,” she said Friday, noting that donations to Team Brownsville have dwindled.

Title 42, part of a 1944 health law, applies to all nationalities but has fallen unevenly among those Mexico is willing to take back – Guatemalans, Hondurans, El Salvadorans and more recently Venezuelans, in addition to Mexicans. Illegal border crossings by single adults fell in November, according to a Justice Department court filing released on Friday, but which did not explain why. Families traveling with young children and children traveling alone are also excluded.

Migrant women wash clothes at the Casa del Migrante shelter run by Catholic nuns in Reynosa, Mexico on Thursday, December 15, 2022.
Migrant women wash clothes at the Casa del Migrante shelter run by Catholic nuns in Reynosa, Mexico on Thursday, December 15, 2022.
AP

According to the filing, border guards stopped lone adults along the Mexican border 143,903 times in November, down 9% from 158,639 times in October and the lowest level since August. Nicaraguans became the second largest nationality on the border among single adults, after Mexicans, surpassing Cubans.

Venezuelan single adults were stopped by border guards 3,513 times in November, up from 14,697 a month earlier, showing the impact of Mexico’s Oct. 12 decision to accept migrants from the South American country being deported from the US.

Mexican single adults were stopped 43,504 times, up from 56,088 in October, more than any other nationality. Adults from Nicaragua were stopped 27,369 times, down from 16,497. Cuban adults were stopped 24,690 times, down from 20,744.

In a related development, a federal judge in Amarillo, Texas, ruled Thursday that the Biden administration wrongly ended a Trump-era policy of making asylum seekers in Mexico wait for hearings in a U.S. immigration court. The ruling had no immediate impact but could prove to be a longer-term setback for the White House.

White House spokesman Abdullah Hasan said immigration laws would continue to be enforced at the border and the Biden administration would work to expand legal avenues for migrants but discouraged “disorderly and unsafe migration.”

“To be clear, the repeal of Health Order Title 42 does not mean the border is open,” he said. “Anyone who suggests otherwise is doing the work of smugglers spreading misinformation to make a quick buck off vulnerable migrants.”

https://nypost.com/2022/12/17/us-court-rejects-maintaining-covid-19-asylum-restrictions/ US court refuses to uphold COVID-19 asylum restrictions

JACLYN DIAZ

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