The Biden administration on Friday appealed a federal judge’s ruling to block border authorities from expelling migrant families with children under a public health order linked to the coronavirus pandemic.
On Thursday, Judge Emmet Sullivan of the District of Columbia District Court acknowledged that his ruling would force the government to make difficult decisions, but determined that there are enough measures that can be taken to mitigate the spread of Covid-19. He paused his order for 14 days.
The Biden administration, which is appealing to the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, has relied on the public health order to turn away adults and families apprehended at the US southern border. Unaccompanied children remain exempt from the policy.
Over recent months, though, the US has gradually admitted more families. In August, more than 70,000 migrant families were allowed into the US, while around 16,000 were expelled, according to US Customs and Border Protection data.
Still, Biden has faced criticism from immigrant advocates, who argued that the policy, put in place under the Trump administration, betrayed the country’s stance of welcoming asylum seekers, and from Republicans who claimed abrupt changes in immigration policy fueled migration north. The Biden administration is standing by the policy.
Immigrant advocates immediately condemned the appeal.
“It’s extremely disappointing that the Biden administration is willing to fight tooth and nail to uphold President Trump’s xenophobic immigration policies. Despite this appeal, we know the law is on our side and we will keep fighting with our co-counsel on behalf of refugees,” Noah Gottschalk, Oxfam America’s global policy lead, said in a statement. Oxfam was among the groups challenging the order.
Thursday’s ruling was the latest legal setback for the Biden administration related to immigration. The Supreme Court in August also declined the Biden administration’s request that it put on hold a lower court order requiring the revival of a Trump-era policy requiring migrants to stay in Mexico until their US immigration court dates. The policy, informally known as “remain in Mexico,” was suspended at the beginning of Biden’s term and formally terminated months later.
The administration has since initiated talks with Mexico about the return of that policy.
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