Supreme Court ends dispute over Trump-era asylum-seeker policy

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Thursday formally ended a Republican-led bid to keep in place a Trump-era immigration policy that made it easy to expel asylum-seekers at the border following the official end of the Covid emergency declaration that was used to justify it.

The move was expected after President Joe Biden ended the public health emergency on May 11. In an order the justices ordered a lower court to dismiss the case as moot.

The immigration policy known as Title 42, named after a section of U.S. law, gives the federal government power to take emergency action to keep diseases out of the country. Trump invoked it when the coronavirus pandemic broke out, and it has remained in effect during the Biden administration. More than 2 million people have been expelled from the country as a result.

The case before the Supreme Court involved a request by 19 Republican state attorneys general who sought to intervene in defense of the policy. In November, a federal judge had ruled that the policy was unlawful, but the Supreme Court put that ruling on hold a month later and agreed to consider whether the attorneys general could participate in that case.

In a statement Thursday, Justice Neil Gorsuch, who dissented when the court intervened in December, again criticized his colleagues for allowing a policy premised on the pandemic to remain in place seemingly because it helped mitigate a crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border.

He said the court “took a serious misstep when it effectively allowed nonparties to this case to manipulate our docket to prolong an emergency decree designed for one crisis in order to address an entirely different one.”

Events overtook the court’s consideration of the case when Biden’s administration said it would wind down the policy by May 11 as a result of the pandemic officially being declared over.

The Supreme Court had originally scheduled to hear oral arguments in March but later scrapped that session once it became clear the case could become moot.

Trump’s use of Title 42 was strongly backed by Republicans alarmed at the number of people crossing the southern border and was opposed by immigrant rights groups, who say it was inhumane.

States led by the Republican attorneys general of Arizona and Louisiana filed the emergency request last year after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit rejected their request to intervene in a bid to prevent the policy from being wound down.

The states argued that Biden’s administration had “abandoned meaningful defense” of the rule, saying it effectively engineered, with the help of lawyers challenging the policy, a ruling that would end it. As a result, the states sought to intervene to keep it in place. The appeals court said in its order that the states waited too long before they tried to intervene.

In a separate case, the administration’s previous effort to unwind the policy had been blocked by a federal judge.

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