Aug. 3 (UPI) — The Biden administration has extended a Trump-era policy that allows border officials to expel migrants entering the United States due to COVID-19 fears as the American Civil Liberties Union renews its lawsuit against the rule.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced in a statement Monday that it was extending Title 42 until the health agency “determines that the danger of further introduction of COVID-19 into the United States from covered non-citizens has ceased to be a serious danger to the public health.”
The order, which the administration of then-President Donald Trump instituted in March of last year, has permitted officials to expel more than 750,00 migrants, according to data from U.S. Customs and Border protection.
The CDC said Monday that it will continue to assess the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic at U.S. borders and ports of entry and will review the latest pandemic information every 60 days “to ensure that the Order remains necessary to protect the public health.”
The Department of Homeland Security said it will comply with the health order, stating its officials will continue to expel the majority of single adults and families when possible at the U.S. southern border.
“Title 42 is not an immigration authority, but a public health authority, and its continued use is dictated by CDC and governed by the CDC’s analysis of public health factors,” the DHS said in a statement, adding that they are deferring to public health experts on decisions related to the order, under which children are except from expulsion.
The Biden administration, which has undone several of Trump’s key immigration policies since taking office in January, has maintained Title 42 despite strong criticism from immigration and human rights groups, stating it is siding with the decisions of public health authorities.
The ACLU had sued the Trump administration for an immediate halt to Title 42 but put the lawsuit on hold as it entered negotiations with the Biden administration on the controversial policy.
On Monday, hours before the CDC issued its statement, the ACLU said it would be taking the administration to court.
“We gave the Biden administration more than enough time to fix any problems left behind by the Trump administration, but it has left us no choice but to return to court,” ACLU attorney Lee Gelernt said in a statement. “Families’ lives are at stake.”
In May, Immigration and Customs Enforcement Acting Director Tae Johnson told a House subcommittee that Title 42 has proven to be “critical” to the department’s efforts to ensure social distancing at their facilities in order to contain the spread of COVID-19.
“ICE is concerned that the loss of Title 42 could create additional pressure on our immigration system,” he said.
Late last month, a senior administration official told reporters during a teleconference meeting on immigration policy that there was no update on the order.
“As we’ve said in the past, it’s a public health authority, and that authority rests with the CDC, and so we’ll continue to defer to them on those decision,” the official said.