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Judge plans to hit pause on Biden effort to end Trump-era Covid restriction at border

A federal judge said Monday he intends to temporarily block the Biden administration from lifting the coronavirus border restriction known as Title 42.

It would be a victory for Republican-led states and some led by Democrats that sued to keep the immigration policy initiated in the Trump administration.

U.S. District Judge Robert R. Summerhays of the Western District of Louisiana announced his intent to grant the motion during a virtual status conference Monday.

Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt celebrated the judge’s decision on Twitter Monday afternoon.

“This is a huge victory for border security, but the fight continues on,” he wrote.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas announced this month that the administration would lift the Title 42 restrictions on May 23, allowing families and single adult asylum-seekers who had been turned away at the U.S.-Mexico border during the pandemic to enter the U.S. and make asylum claims.

NBC News has reached out to the Department of Homeland Security for comment on the judge’s remarks.

The lawsuit in question was originally filed by Missouri, Louisiana, and Arizona in the U.S. District Court in Louisiana earlier this month. Other states that later signed on in support include Louisiana, Missouri, Alaska, Kansas, Kentucky and Wyoming

The three Democratic-led states that signed onto the lawsuit have Republicans as their attorneys general.

The lawsuit is against the Biden administration winding down Title 42 “before its May 23 effective date.” It’s not clear whether the judge’s order, when he eventually publishes it, will stop the Biden administration from lifting Title 42 on May 23 or just prevent the administration from acting before its planned deadline. The parties in the case are scheduled to confer on the specifics in an attempt to reach consensus.

The public health rule has allowed the federal government to quickly expel immigrants and asylum seekers since March 2020. It has prevented more than 1.7 million attempts to cross the U.S. border.

After meeting with President Joe Biden at the White House on Monday, members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus blasted the temporary restraining order.

“I want to remind everybody Title 42 is a public health authority. It’s not an immigration tool, it’s a public health authority that the CDC has said is no longer necessary,” Rep. Nanette Diaz Barragán, D-Calif., the vice chair of the caucus, told reporters.

Before the judge’s announcement, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the Biden administration intended to move ahead with implementation, citing a “multipart strategy that Secretary Mayorkas has been leading and overseeing for the past several months.”

The Biden administration has come under fire from Republicans and immigration advocates alike over its handling of the Trump-era rule.

At least a dozen Democrats in pivotal races this year have opposed the planned policy change, arguing that lifting it would increase migration and potentially overwhelm the immigration system and lead to national security risks.

The Biden administration and its allies have maintained that removing the rule would simply mean a return to pre-pandemic policies, arguing migrants would continue to be removed unless they are able to “establish a legal basis to remain” in the U.S.

Julia Ainsley contributed.

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