The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in announcing the change late Friday night, said “that expulsion of unaccompanied noncitizen children is not warranted to protect the public health.”
The change was announced shortly before a court order was to take effect that would have allowed the Biden administration to expel unaccompanied children seeking asylum under Title 42 authority, which was introduced in March 2020 to prevent spread of Covid-19. The order remains in place for adults and families traveling with children.
Testing and other preventive measures allow children traveling alone to be released to sponsors in the United States, the CDC said. Sponsors are typically family or other close relatives.
A federal judge ruled in a lawsuit by the state of Texas that the CDC failed to explain why children traveling alone were exempted from Title 42, and gave the administration a week to appeal. Instead, the CDC lifted the order — but only for unaccompanied children.
The Associated Press left a phone message with the office of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and also sent an email. There was no immediate response.
Migrants have been expelled more than 1.6 million times under Title 42, named for a 1944 public health law. Biden has kept the order in place but exempted unaccompanied children during his first days in office.
Prominent Democrats and advocacy groups have been pressing to end Title 42 for all migrants. “It is not a humane or effective solution to securing our border,” Sen. Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, tweeted on Friday.
In a joint statement, Democratic Sens. Alex Padilla of California, Bob Menendez of New Jersey, Cory Booker of New Jersey and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York said that "it is wrong that they made the decision to continue sending families with minor children back to persecution and torture."