WASHINGTON — Chief Justice John Roberts on Monday placed a temporary hold on a lower court ruling that would end a Trump-era immigration policy implemented during the pandemic to allow asylum-seekers to be quickly turned away at the border.
The brief order came after Republican-led states asked the Supreme Court to keep the policy in place.
Roberts ordered that the federal district court ruling, which was due to go into effect Wednesday, be put on hold until the Supreme Court acts. He asked the Biden administration and groups challenging the policy to file a response to the states' request by Tuesday afternoon.
Nineteen states led by Arizona and Louisiana filed an emergency request after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit last week rejected their request to intervene in the case in a bid to prevent the policy, known as Title 42, from being wound down.
"Getting rid of Title 42 will recklessly and needlessly endanger more Americans and migrants by exacerbating the catastrophe that is occurring at our southern border,” Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich said in a statement.
The states say President Joe 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 are seeking to intervene to keep it in place. The appeals court said in its order last week that the states had 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.
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. Former President Donald 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.
Various civil rights groups, including the Americans Civil Liberties Union, challenged the policy on behalf of people covered by it.
The Department of Homeland Security said in a statement Monday it would keep Title 42 in effect under the Supreme Court's order and that it would continue preparing "to manage the border in a safe, orderly, and humane way" should it be lifted.
"We urge Congress to use this time to provide the funds we have requested for border security and management and advance the comprehensive immigration measures President Biden proposed on his first day in office," the department added.