The Biden administration faces court challenges from states over border policies
Last Tuesday the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the state of Texas’ lawsuit against the Biden administration’s termination of the “Remain in Mexico” program, formally known as the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP). The program was implemented under the Trump administration and President Biden issued a memo to end it last year. The states of Texas and Missouri filed a lawsuit challenging the administration’s authority to do so, which has been appealed up to the Supreme Court. The states have argued that the program must remain in place unless the government is able to detain all noncitizens waiting for rulings on their immigration cases, rather than releasing immigrants on parole. Meanwhile, the Solicitor General representing the federal government has pointed out that no administration has ever interpreted the law this way, and that even the Trump administration allowed release upon parole. The court is not expected to issue a decision on the case until this summer.
The Biden administration is facing another legal challenge from multiple states on the CDC’s plan to terminate Title 42 later this month. The lawsuit from attorneys general of over 20 states alleges that the administration lacks the authority to end the public health policy that has been used over 1.7 million times to rapidly expel migrants since March 2020. Last Wednesday, federal Judge Robert Summerhays issued a temporary restraining order blocking the administration from beginning the transition to end Title 42 before May 23. The next hearing is scheduled for May 13.
While politicians across the country continue to weigh in with opinions about the planned termination of the policy, two mayors in key cities near the southern border – Brownsville, Texas and Tucson, Arizona – released a joint statement in favor of ending the policy. They wrote, “Our offices are working closely with the Biden Administration and with various community organizations on the ground to ensure that there are resources in place to execute a comprehensive plan to process asylum seekers, crack down on cartels, and establish appropriate COVID-19 protocols. We must remain steadfast in our work to provide refuge to those fleeing persecution and violence in their home countries, just as our European allies are doing with Ukrainian refugees.”
The Biden administration also issued a new memo last week with a more detailed plan of border management following the proposed lift of Title 42. The plan focuses on six pillars to include more resources for support border operations, enhancement of CBP’s processing efficiency, added penalties for repeat crossers, enhanced partnerships with NGOs, more targeted actions to deter smugglers and criminal organizations, and continued negotiations with other countries to cooperate on migration management.
Humanitarian Parole for Ukrainians looks different than for Afghans
Thousands have begun the new Uniting for Ukraine sponsorship process since the new portal opened on the DHS website last week. Reports indicate that over 4,000 applications were filed within the first 48 hours of the portal launch. While CBP has processed over 20,000 Ukrainians for entry at the U.S.-Mexico border since March 11th, the administration has indicated their intention to scale back this exception to Title 42 for Ukrainians and will instead refer them to the new parole program.
There are several differences between this new parole program created for Ukrainians and the humanitarian parole that has been used before, especially in the recent case of Afghans. This new process does not have a filing fee, it requires less paperwork, and reportedly should be “fairly quick.” In contrast, Afghans who applied for humanitarian parole following the end of evacuations last year paid a $575 application fee per person and of the 45,000 applications filed since July 2021, only about 2,600 have received a final decision. Eighty-six percent of those were denied.
Tragic consequences of the border wall
A report from The Washington Post detailed tragic outcomes from the increased height of the border wall in recent years. While CBP does not keep records of injuries or deaths of those who have fallen from the wall, newly released statistics from physicians at the University of California at San Diego indicate that new 30-foot segments of border wall installed under former President Trump have led to steep increases to injuries and deaths among migrants. Since the wall height was increased in 2019, the physicians found that the UC San Diego Medical Center’s trauma ward saw an increase of 5 times as many patients who had fallen from the border wall. This included a jump from zero deaths to 16 in that time period. The chief of the hospital’s trauma division stated, “Once you go over 20 feet, and up to 30 feet, the chance of severe injury and death are higher.” Another San Diego trauma center, Scripps Mercy Hospital, has also seen an increase in injuries with 16% of the patients seen last month being migrants who had fallen from the border wall.