The US Supreme Court has announced that Title 42, a Donald Trump-era border restriction that prevented people from crossing into the United States from its southern border with Mexico, will stay in place while deliberations regarding the same go on in courts.

This means that until a definitive decision is reached on this matter, US government forces will be able to send back migrants coming to the US border to seek refuge in the upcoming months.

Title 42 was put into place during the COVID pandemic to curb unrestricted immigration into the United States. 

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Under the restrictions, officials have expelled asylum-seekers inside the United States 2.5 million times and turned away most people who requested asylum at the border on grounds of preventing the spread of COVID-19. The restrictions are often referred to as Title 42 in reference to a 1944 public health law.

Immigration advocates sued to end the use of Title 42. They said the policy goes against American and international obligations to people fleeing to the U.S. to escape persecution. They’ve also argued that the policy is outdated as coronavirus treatments improve.

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In November, a federal judge agreed with them and set a deadline for ending the programme of December 21. The Supreme Court heard an appeal from conservative-leaning states that warned increased migration would harm public services and result in a “unprecedented tragedy” that the federal government was unprepared to handle.

Chief Justice John Roberts, who handles urgent cases from federal courts in the capital, imposed a stay to give the court additional time to carefully evaluate the reasons made by both parties.

Conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch said that while he does consider the fears of the Republican states who have argued against lifting Title 42, he also has to acknowledge that “the current border crisis is not a Covid crisis.”.

Lee Gelernt, who is the plaintiffs’ lead counsel, said regarding the Supreme Court’s decision, “We are deeply disappointed for all the desperate asylum seekers who will continue to suffer because of Title 42, but we will continue fighting to eventually end the policy”.