A District Court ordered the Trump administration to stop using a public health code to expel unaccompanied minors from the country, court records show.
On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan ordered the administration to stop the practice as a result of a lawsuit brought on by several civil rights organizations that challenged the administration’s use of the Public Health Service Act, or Title 42, to deport unaccompanied migrant children.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention order, issued March 20, temporarily prohibits the movement of certain migrants into the country from Canada or Mexico in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19, and it allows for their expulsion from the country without an immigration court hearing.
Sullivan’s order enjoins the administration, or any of its “agents,” from continuing the practice, court documents show.
Wednesday’s ruling comes months after the lawsuit was filed against the government by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Texas Civil Rights Project and other organizations that asked the courts to halt the use of the public health code to justify the expulsion of thousands of unaccompanied minors without allowing them legal due process.
The ACLU filed the suit in August after reports surfaced of unaccompanied children being held at hotels under the care of government contractors. The news was met with public outcry.
Subsequently, an independent monitor found and reported to a court in a separate court case that children were being housed in hotel rooms, with at least one in McAllen, for an average of 4 to 5 days, and as long as 11 days in one instance.
The civil rights organizations’ contends the administration did not have the authority to use the public health code to deport non-citizens in the country, and it does not have the authority to use the code to legally remove children.
Lee Gelernt, an attorney with the ACLU said Wednesday’s ruling is a critical step for the challenge made this summer.
“The administration’s order has already allowed for the rapid expulsion of more than 13,000 children in need of protection, who were legally entitled to apply for asylum,” Gelernt said in a prepared release.
Additionally, Marisol Vargas, an attorney with the Texas Civil Rights Project, said the use of the public health code to expel children violates the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act and other related immigration laws.
A date for the next hearing in P.J.E.S. v. Wolf et al case was not available as of this posting.