(CNN) – A federal judge blocked the Biden administration from expelling migrant families with children apprehended at the US-Mexico border under a public health order, according to a Thursday ruling, marking a major defeat for the administration.
In a long-awaited ruling, Judge Emmet Sullivan of the District of Columbia District Court acknowledged that the ruling will force the government to make difficult decisions, but determined that there are enough measures that can be taken to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.
“But in view of the wide availability of testing, vaccines, and other minimization measures, the Court is not convinced that the transmission of COVID-19 during border processing cannot be significantly mitigated. Indeed, the government has successfully implemented mitigation measures with regard to processing unaccompanied minors in order to minimize risk of COVID-19 transmission,” the 58-page ruling stated.
The order doesn’t take effect for 14 days. The Biden administration has relied on the public health order linked to the pandemic to turn away adults and families apprehended at the US southern border. Unaccompanied children remain exempt from the policy.
In August, more than 70,000 migrant families were allowed into the US, while around 16,000 were expelled, according to US Customs and Border Protection data.
Biden has faced criticism from immigrant advocates who argued the policy, put in place under the Trump administration, betrayed the country’s stance of welcoming asylum seekers and from Republicans who claimed abrupt changes in immigration policy fueled migration north.
CNN reached out to the Department of Homeland Security for comment.
The American Civil Liberties Union, along with other advocacy groups, filed the class-action lawsuit. Omar Jadwat, director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, said in a statement Thursday the court was “correct to reject it today.”
“President Biden should have ended this cruel and lawless policy long ago, and the court was correct to reject it today,” he said in a statement. The ACLU had also challenged subjecting unaccompanied children to the policy, though they are now exempt.
By Priscilla Alvarez for CNN
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