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US pro-migrant groups warn Biden, ask court to block border expulsions amid refugee influx

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Migrants are processed by the United States Border Patrol after crossing the US-Mexico border into the United States in Penitas, Texas, on July 08, 2021. (Via AFP)

Pro-migrant groups have warned that they will block refugees' expulsions in court as the administration of US President Joe Biden is pressing ahead with use of an "inhumane" Trump-era expulsion policy for migrant families.   

A coalition of NGOs led by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) will restart litigation over Biden's use of "inhumane" and "illegal" Title 42 order that allows US officials to send migrants back to Mexico on grounds of public health without the chance for them to seek asylum or other protections in the United States.

The Title 42 refers to the section of federal law that allows for the deportations of “persons who have recently been in a country where a communicable disease was present,” which the Trump administration used to deter illegal immigrants during last year’s COVID-19 lockdowns.

The ACLU said, "We warned the Biden administration that we'd see them in court if they continued to misuse Title 42 to unlawfully expel people seeking protection at the southern border. We meant it." 

“It’s clear there’s no end in sight to Title 42 and we will pursue an immediate injunction,” said Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU's Immigrants' Rights Project.

“The Biden administration asked for some time to repair the damage done by the Trump administration to the asylum process, but it has now been seven months. That’s a more than sufficient amount of time.”

Noah Gottschalk, global policy lead for Oxfam America, one of the groups involved in the litigation, said that, "The administration is choosing to treat refugees like political pawns, and so we are eager to return to court so we can end Title 42 for families once and for all." 

A top Biden border official defended the so-called Title 42 as necessary to protect US government workers, migrants and the American public amid growing concern over the highly transmissible Delta variant of COVID-19.

David Shahoulian, assistant secretary for border and immigration policy with the US Department for Homeland Security (DHS), said the rate at which migrants encountered at the border were testing positive for COVID-19 had "increased significantly in recent weeks."

The number of US border agents isolated or hospitalized due to the coronavirus was also rising, he said.

Migrants in cross-fire

US Customs and Border Protection said around 70,000 families – out of the 231,000 or so apprehended on the US-Mexico border this year – have been deported to Mexico on Title 42 grounds.

The deported refugees, however, have been caught in cross-fire as US local media said Mexican authorities have stopped accepting nationals from other countries expelled under Title 42.

The outcome of the court case could deepening Biden's challenges on the US-Mexico border, complicating his administration's efforts to deal with a 20-year high in migrant arrests at the southern border. 

The administration has relied heavily on the support of these pro-migrant groups to help it garner public support for Biden's vision of an orderly immigration system.

If the application of Title 42 against migrant families is blocked, it could make it hard to detain incoming migrants, forcing them to be released into the United States.

There has been an influx of more than a million migrants across the US-Mexico border since January, when President Biden assumed office and vowed to unwind Trump's harsh immigration policies.

Biden relaxed asylum rules, gave more leeway to prosecutors not to press charges, and allowed some migrants previously waiting in Mexico to cross into the US. The US president also promised to halt construction of a controversial border wall.

Tens of thousands have  been released inside the US without being given court dates to check in later with Immigration and Customs Enforcement offices in cities where they decide to reside. Thousands have been put on buses or flown across the country.

Some US Republicans blamed Joe Biden for a “manmade humanitarian disaster” at US southern border as the detention of asylum seekers, in particular unaccompanied migrant children, continues.

"It is a humanitarian disaster and it is manmade. Joe Biden caused this with political decisions made in the opening weeks of this administration," Ted Cruz said in April.

Earlier in July, Former president Trump accused his Democratic successor Biden of neglecting national security by dismantling border controls that have opened the floodgate to illegal immigration into the country.

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