US cannot use health law to deport migrants to areas where they are persecuted or tortured, says DC Circuit
A federal appeals court ruled Friday that the Biden administration cannot use a public health law to immediately deport migrants to countries where they could face persecution or torture.
The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled on the government’s use of a public health law known as Title 42 to deport migrants due to COVID-19 risks. Government orders under the law, issued by the Trump and Biden administrations, covered immigrants trying to enter the United States from Canada or Mexico without valid travel documents.
The plaintiffs in the case were six families covered by the latest order, which requires the deportation of immigrants here unlawfully, with the exception of unaccompanied minors. The plaintiffs claimed the order violated asylum and refusal of removal laws and the Convention Against Torture.
The appeals court said the plaintiffs would likely prevail on their argument that the evictions violate legal limits on where they can be sent.
“In short, says the opinion, the executive can expel the plaintiffs from the country. But he cannot deport them to places where they will be persecuted or tortured.”
The court said the plaintiffs would suffer irreparable harm in the absence of an injunction, citing examples of people who have “already been forced to walk the plank” in countries where they face persecution or torture.
“The record is replete with harrowing evidence of death, torture and rape,” in such cases, the appeals court said.
The Court of Appeal did not accept the plaintiffs’ argument that they have the right to seek asylum before the deportations. The issue “may be the closest issue in this case,” and it warrants further consideration at the trial court level, the appeals court said. But at this stage of the litigation, the plaintiffs have not demonstrated that they are likely to succeed on this argument.
Lee Gelernt, associate director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Immigrant Rights Project, is the attorney who argued the immigrant appeal in this case, Huisha-Huisha v. Majorkoras. He called the decision “a huge victory” in a Press release.
“We have maintained from the beginning that the Title 42 policy is illegal and inhumane, and every court charged with dealing with the issue has agreed,” Gelernt said.
Civil rights lawyers also welcomed the decision in a press release.
“Huisha-Huisha now provides a bulwark against federal government efforts to illegally deport immigrants, especially to countries like Haiti that are experiencing conflict, unrest, upheaval, or environmental cataclysms,” the Lawyers for Civil Rights press release said. .