The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Tuesday in favor of Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s lawsuit that keeps Title 42 restrictions in place until the justices hear a challenge in February. Brnovich led a coalition of 21 Republican states in trying to keep the Trump-era rule in place.

Title 42, named in reference to a 1944 public health law, is a policy implemented under the Trump administration in 2020 which allows immigration officials to turn illegal immigrants back at the border due to COVID-19. In the interests of public health, they are not allowed to apply for asylum. Multiple efforts have been made to halt it but have faced stiff opposition from proponents like Brnovich.  

“Our office has been proud to lead the charge on this important issue,” said Brnovich. “It’s disappointing the Biden administration is willing to sacrifice the safety of American families for political purposes.”

The order states that it does not “prevent the federal government from taking any action with respect to that policy.” However, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the Biden administration “will, of course, comply with the order and prepare for the Court’s review.”

U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan, who was appointed to the federal bench by former President Bill Clinton, sided with border crisis deniers in November, ordering a termination date of December 21. The Supreme Court said in its brief opinion that the February review would determine whether or not the states have the right to intervene regarding the restrictions. 

The liberals on the court disagreed with the ruling, joined by Justice Neil Gorsuch. He said in a dissent along with Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, “the current border crisis is not a COVID crisis. 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.”

Title 42 has been used to turn back illegal immigrants 2.5 million times since its implementation. However, according to Customs and Border Protection, a record 2.3 million were encountered at the border in Fiscal Year 2022. In November, one of the highest monthly numbers of apprehensions was recorded, 233,740 migrants.

When Title 42 is eventually lifted, a surge of migrants is expected. Many of those who have been turned back have not returned to their home countries and are instead waiting on the Mexican side of the border. 

Yuma Mayor Douglas Nicholls sent The Arizona Sun Times a statement expressing his concern about the federal government’s plan when Title 42 is lifted. He met with White House and DHS staff earlier this month to discuss it.

“After the meeting, I was provided a copy of the plan for the response to Title 42 terminating,” he said. “The plan remains extremely vague and inadequate at this time despite having asked for the plan about 2 years ago. The plan also focuses on moving migrants through the system faster to release into the US, not focusing on the reduction of the flow and curtailing these record numbers.” 

Nicholls added, “On December 14th, the Yuma County Board of Supervisors’ Chairman, Tony Reyes, declared a countywide emergency to bring attention and preparedness for the migrant situation as it escalates during the rescinding of Title 42.”

The Yuma Sector was forced to release some migrants into the streets of Yuma this month, Nicholls said, due to “the highest ‘in custody’ numbers in the nation right now and there does not appear additional resources are coming to assist.” 

Brnovich previously sued the Biden administration challenging DHS Fast-Track Asylum System, opposing DHS Final Guidance, defending Public Charge Rule, disputing the Biden administration’s illegal violation relating to the cancellation of border wall construction and the Remain in Mexico program, and objecting to Interim Guidance.

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Rachel Alexander is a reporter at The Arizona Sun Times and The Star News NetworkFollow Rachel on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Mark Brnovich” by Mark Brnovich.