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By Jacob Fischler, Iowa Capital Dispatch

A federal judge in Louisiana said Monday he will block the Biden administration from lifting a public health order that keeps immigrants seeking asylum out of the United States.

U.S. District Judge Robert R. Summerhays told Republican state attorneys general and the federal government that he planned to grant the Republicans’ request for a temporary restraining order. It would stop President Joe Biden from ending the policy known as Title 42, first put in place during the Trump administration.

The administration had said it would end next month the emergency order that allowed immigration authorities to expel those seeking asylum.

But the decision has brought condemnation from Republicans and pushback from some members of Biden’s own party, who say there needs to be a comprehensive plan in place to deal with expected higher numbers of migrants when the order ends. The Department of Homeland Security says it also faces a funding shortfall.

Iowa Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, a Republican, said in a statement Monday that lifting the order now “would likely create one of the worst immigration crises we have seen in decades.”

Miller-Meeks said the Biden administration “must have a plan in place to secure the border before lifting important policies like Title 42.”

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Summerhays granted the order during a virtual status conference Monday. A summary of that meeting said the states and federal agencies would “attempt to reach agreement” on the specific terms of the order.

The summary did not include details of Summerhays’ legal reasoning. Former President Donald Trump appointed Summerhays to the federal judgeship in Louisiana, where he has served since 2018.

The Trump administration first put Title 42 in effect during the first wave of pandemic restrictions in March 2020. Seeking to block carriers of coronavirus from entering and staying in the country, the order allowed the Department of Homeland Security to remove immigrants seeking asylum.

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More than 1 million migrants have been expelled under the policy, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said early this month it would lift Title 42 on May 23. The agency determined, with higher vaccination rates in the country and around the world, migrants no longer posed a sufficient public health threat to continue the policy.

Attorneys general in Arizona, Louisiana and Missouri sued early this month to block that action. Eighteen other states, including Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, Ohio, Idaho, Nebraska, Montana and Kansas, joined in the last three weeks.

Although public health amid a pandemic was the rationale for imposing the policy more than two years ago, opponents of its removal have argued it should remain in place to stem immigration.

“This is a huge victory for border security,” Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt wrote on Twitter Monday. “But the fight continues on.”

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