Politics

Texas sues Biden over plans to end pandemic health policy at the border

The policy known as Title 42 is set to expire in late May but Paxton is asking for an immediate halt to the pending termination.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton joined Lubbock ISD in suing to stop Head Start from requiring staff and volunteers in the early childhood program to be fully vaccinated by Jan. 31.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on Friday sued the Biden administration over the White House's plan to end Title 42, the 2020 pandemic-related policy that allows federal officials to rapidly expel migrants at the border.

The Biden administration announced earlier this month it planned to end the policy May 23. Paxton also filed an emergency motion to postpone or terminate Biden's order. The federal lawsuit was filed in the Southern District of Texas in Victoria.

"The Biden Administration's disastrous open border policies and its confusing and haphazard COVID-19 response have combined to create a humanitarian and public safety crisis on our southern border," Paxton's office said in the complaint. "The Defendants now seek to eliminate their Title 42 border-control measures, which are the only rules holding back a devastating flood of illegal immigration."

The lawsuit names as defendants Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as several officials from the Department of Homeland Security, including DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. The CDC said in an email the agency does not comment on pending litigation. DHS did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Title 42 was implemented by the Trump administration in March 2020 as what he said was an attempt to curb the spread of COVID-19. Despite pressure from immigrant rights groups and some Democrats, Biden only announced an end to the policy earlier this month. The policy has been slammed by critics who say it strips migrants of their legal right to apply for asylum.

Paxton's lawsuit comes after more than 20 states earlier this week asked a federal court in Louisiana to also halt Biden's plans to end the policy.

In the suit, Paxton alleges the Biden administration violated the Administrative Procedure Act, which governs the way federal policies are crafted and how much public input goes into those policies. Paxton also says the end of Title 42 would increase the number of undocumented immigrants who use certain public-assistance programs, causing the state financial harm.

Critics of Title 42 say that aside from denying asylum seekers their rightful claim to protection, the United States is also expelling migrants to the same dangerous countries they initially fled due to violence.

"Instead of centering public health, the current policy seriously endangers the lives of those in need of protection, who are returned to abuse in their country of origin or to dangerous Mexican border cities where organized crime operatives are known to intentionally target migrants," Human Rights Watch wrote in a 2021 report on the policy.

Paxton's lawsuit comes after Customs and Border Protection announced earlier this week that agents encountered more than 221,000 unauthorized migrants at the southern border in March, a 33% increase compared to February. About half were expelled under Title 42, CBP said.

The Texas sectors of the U.S. Border Patrol continue to be the busiest for crossings in the country. In March in the Rio Grande Valley and Del Rio sectors, agents encountered about 44,000 and 41,600 migrants respectively, according to CBP statistics. That was followed by the Yuma and Tucson sectors with about 29,700 and 27,200 encounters. The El Paso sector, which also includes New Mexico, saw about 25,600 encounters.

The pending end to Title 42 has also spurred action by Gov. Greg Abbott, who announced earlier this month the expansion of the controversial state border-enforcement program called Operation Lone Star. Abbott ordered the state's emergency division of management to bus migrants to D.C. and on Friday the governor's office announced 10 buses had arrived so far.

Abbott also ordered the Texas Department of Public Safety to increase inspections of commercial vehicles after they cross into Texas from Mexico. That policy led to a backlog of imports that cost the state and companies millions of dollars in losses.

Abbott ended that policy April 15 after about a week when governors from the four Mexican states that border Texas offered reassurances that they had increased security on their side of the border. Most of those policies were in place before Abbott's order, however.

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