Court: US Can’t Deport Migrants to Regions That Risk Their Persecution

A federal appeals court ruled Friday that illegal immigrants facing deportation under Title 42, the health law provision that allows for the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to “prohibit introduction” of immigrants that could bring an infectious disease into the country, cannot be returned to their respective nations if they face “persecution or torture.” 

“To be sure, as with most things in life, no approach to COVID-19 can eliminate every risk. But from a public-health perspective based on the limited record before us, it’s far from clear that the CDC’s order serves any purpose,” the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruling said.

“The District Court therefore did not abuse its discretion in determining that the balance of equities favors the Plaintiffs. We affirm the District Court’s preliminary injunction in part. For now, the Executive may expel the Plaintiffs, but only to places where they will not be persecuted or tortured.”

Title 42 was enacted during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic under the administration of former President Donald Trump, but has continued during President Joe Biden’s first term in office.

According to a press release from the American Civil Liberties Union, which announced the decision by the court, the injunction on using Title 42 cannot take effect today, but the organization is calling on the administration to implement it immediately.

“This is an enormous victory,” ACLU attorney Lee Gelernt said in the release. “We have argued from the beginning that the Title 42 policy is illegal and inhumane, and every court to address the issue has agreed. The court’s ruling leaves no doubt that this brutal policy has resulted in serious harm to families seeking asylum and must be terminated.” 

The lawsuit was initially filed by the ACLU and other organizations during Trump’s administration but was returned to court in July 2021 after negotiations with the Biden administration broke down, the release said.

“It is past time for the Biden administration to stop expelling people to danger,” Shaw Drake, staff attorney and policy counsel, ACLU of Texas said. “Today the courts again agreed. President Biden must stop harming vulnerable families by returning them to potential violence. The administration must uphold its promise to restore humanity to our immigration system. Step one is to end Title 42 expulsions completely.”

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