The administration of US President Joe Biden has defended the use of a controversial migration policy that led to the expulsion of more than 1 million migrants during the era of former President Donald Trump.
The policy, known as Title 42 or "Remain in Mexico," allows US agents to rapidly expel migrants arrested at the US-Mexico border during the Covid-19 pandemic without giving them a chance to seek asylum.
The Trump administration introduced the controversial policy following the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic but the Biden administration used it widely.
"Under the Title 42 order, those non-citizens can be rapidly screened, and then quickly expelled, substantially reducing the risk of transmission," Justice Department attorney Sharon Swingle told a court hearing on Wednesday.
Last January, The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit on behalf of migrant families to challenge the policy, claiming that it has no health basis.
"We are back in court because the Biden administration has chosen to continue this brutal policy against families, despite the absence of any support from public health officials," the ACLU's attorney said on Wednesday.
The Biden administration has repeatedly asked the ACLU to pause its litigation against Title 42, vowing to reverse several Trump immigration actions and adopt a more humane approach at the border. But it has failed to do so.
Meanwhile, rights organizations say the policy benefits drug cartels who claim that they are the only reliable means for people to enter the US.