A federal judge has ruled that the Biden administration can no longer turn away migrant families seeking asylum at the border under a public health law enacted in response to the pandemic.
The administration has 14 days to appeal the decision before it goes into effect.
In a 58-page ruling, Judge Emmet G. Sullivan of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia said the federal government does not have the authority to rapidly “expel” families who entered the U.S. under a health order known as Title 42 without considering their claims for protection.
The public health law behind Title 42 allows the government to “prohibit … the introduction of” people to the country. Citing the Merriam-Webster Dictionary definitions of “prohibit,” Sullivan concluded that this statute does not permit the expulsion of those who have already entered.
He also found that the migrant families covered by the litigation would likely be placed in harm’s way if they continue to be subjected to the expulsion policy.
“Plaintiffs have provided ample unrebutted evidence demonstrating that they are collectively deprived of certain statutory procedures to seek protection under the Title 42 Process, and they face real threats of violence and persecution if they were to be removed from the United States,” Sullivan wrote.
Sullivan’s decision is a significant victory for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and other activist groups. The left-wing legal challenge commenced in the final hours of the Trump presidency and had dragged on for months in a stalemate with the Biden White House.