US court rejects maintaining COVID-19 asylum restrictions

US court rejects maintaining COVID-19 asylum restrictions

REYNOSA, Mexico (AP) — An appeals court on Friday rejected efforts by conservative states to uphold Trump-era asylum restrictions on immigrants seeking asylum.

REYNOSA, Mexico (AP) — An appeals court on Friday rejected efforts by conservative states to uphold Trump-era asylum restrictions on immigrants seeking asylum.

As the limits expire next week, thousands of migrants have been filling up shelters on the Mexico border. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruling means the restrictions will expire by Wednesday barring further appeals. A final decision could fall on the wire.

Republican-led states have been pushing to keep asylum restrictions put in place by former President Donald Trump at the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Migrants have been denied the right to seek asylum under US and international law 2.5 million times since March 2020 to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The health rule known as Title 42 has given some migrants in Mexico time to wait out.

Immigrant advocates had argued that the US would abandon its long history and obligations to provide sanctuary to people around the world fleeing persecution, and sued to end the use of Title 42. They have also argued that the restrictions are a pretext by Trump for restricting migration, and in any case vaccines and other treatments make that argument obsolete.

A judge sided with her last month, setting December 21 as the deadline for the federal government to end the practice.

Previously, illegal border crossings by single adults fell in November, according to a Justice Department court filing released on Friday, but which offered no explanation as to why. Families traveling with young children and children traveling alone are also excluded.

Border cities, particularly El Paso, Texas, are facing a daily influx of migrants that the Biden administration expects will increase when asylum restrictions are lifted.

Tijuana, Mexico’s largest border city, has an estimated 5,000 people in more than 30 shelters, Enrique Lucero, the city’s director of migrant affairs, said this week.

In Reynosa, Mexico, near McAllen, Texas, nearly 300 migrants — mostly families — huddled together in the Casa del Migrante, sleeping on bunk beds and even on the floor.

Rose, a 32-year-old from Haiti, has been at the shelter for three weeks with her daughter and 1-year-old son. Rose, who did not give her last name because she fears it could jeopardize her safety and her attempts to seek asylum, said she learned about possible US policy changes during her trip. She said she’s glad to be waiting a little longer in Mexico for restrictions that were put in place at the start of the pandemic and have become a cornerstone of U.S. border enforcement to be lifted.

“We’re very scared because Haitians are being deported,” said Rose, who worries that failures in trying to bring her family to the US could result in her being sent back to Haiti.

At Senda de Vida 2, an emergency shelter in Reynosa opened by an evangelical Christian pastor when his first was reaching capacity, about 3,000 migrants live in tents pitched on concrete slabs and coarse gravel. Flies swarm everywhere under a hot sun that burns down even in mid-December.

For the many fleeing violence in Haiti, Venezuela and elsewhere, such shelters offer at least some protection from the cartels that control passage through the Rio Grande and prey on migrants.

In McAllen on Thursday, about 100 migrants who avoided asylum restrictions rested on floor mats in a large hall run by Catholic charities, awaiting transport to family and friends across the United States.

Gloria, a 22-year-old from Honduras who is eight months pregnant with her first child, held onto a printed sheet that read, “Please help me. I don’t speak English.” Gloria also didn’t want her last name used out of fear for her safety. She expressed concerns about navigating to the airport alone and making it to Florida, where she has a family acquaintance.

Andrea Rudnik, co-founder of an all-volunteer association welcoming migrants in Brownsville, Texas, across the border from Matamoros, Mexico, was concerned about having enough winter coats for migrants from warmer climates.

“We don’t have enough supplies,” she said Friday, noting that donations to Team Brownsville have dwindled.

Title 42, part of a 1944 health law, applies to all nationalities but has fallen unevenly among those Mexico is willing to take back – Guatemalans, Hondurans, El Salvadorans and more recently Venezuelans, in addition to Mexicans.

According to the Justice Department court filing on Friday, border guards stopped single adults along the Mexican border 143,903 times in November, down 9% from 158,639 times in October and the lowest level since August. Nicaraguans became the second largest nationality on the border among single adults, after Mexicans, surpassing Cubans.

Venezuelan single adults were stopped by border guards 3,513 times in November, up from 14,697 a month earlier, showing the impact of Mexico’s Oct. 12 decision to accept migrants from the South American country being deported from the US

Mexican single adults were stopped 43,504 times, up from 56,088 in October, more than any other nationality. Adults from Nicaragua were stopped 27,369 times, down from 16,497. Cuban adults were stopped 24,690 times, down from 20,744.

In a related development, a federal judge in Amarillo, Texas, ruled Thursday that the Biden administration wrongly ended a Trump-era policy of making asylum seekers in Mexico wait for hearings in a U.S. immigration court. The ruling had no immediate impact but could prove to be a longer-term setback for the White House.


Santana reported from Washington. Associated Press reporters Elliot Spagat in San Diego and Paul J. Weber in Austin, Texas contributed to this report.


This version corrects November’s illegal crossings for single adults only, not for all migrants.

Giovanna Dell’orto and Rebecca Santana, The Associated Press

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