NEW YORK — A district court today issued an order blocking application of the Trump administration’s “Title 42” order to all unaccompanied children, nationwide, in a class-action lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union, Texas Civil Rights Project, Center for Gender & Refugee Studies, and Oxfam. The challenged order restricts immigration at the border based on an unprecedented and unlawful invocation of the Public Health Service Act, located in Title 42 of the U.S. Code.
The order has already resulted in the summary expulsion of at least 13,000 unaccompanied children without any due process — even if the child was fleeing danger and seeking protection in the United States and showed no signs of having COVID-19.
“Today’s ruling is a critical step in halting the Trump administration’s unprecedented and illegal attempt to expel children under the thin guise of public health. 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,” said ACLU attorney Lee Gelernt, the lead attorney in the case.
The lawsuit argued that the administration is not authorized to issue the expulsion order under public health provisions in Title 42 of the U.S. Code — provisions that have rarely been used and never in this way. Title 42 does not permit expulsions of non-citizens who are in the United States, nor does it legally allow the removal of children.
"We are thrilled that the court has enjoined this cruel policy, which has placed thousands of vulnerable refugee children in harm's way,” CGRS Director of Litigation Jamie Crook said. “Today's ruling affirms that the Trump administration cannot use the pandemic as a pretext to flout its legal obligations to children fleeing persecution."
Noah Gottschalk, Global Policy Lead, Oxfam America said, "This is an enormous win, first and foremost for the thousands of children and their families who will now have the opportunity to find safe haven, but also for who we are as a nation. Over the last four years, the Trump administration has shamefully turned its back on our country's long legacy as a refuge for people fleeing persecution. Today, we're taking a critical step to begin repairing the damage done by these harmful attacks against our common humanity, and the next step is to rescind the order completely."
“It has taken months and a suit against the government to confirm what we already knew: the Trump administration cannot weaponize a pandemic to destroy long established protections for children with a shadow system of zero-accountability. We will continue to keep this administration and the next, in check,” said Karla Marisol Vargas, senior attorney with the Texas Civil Rights Project.
The case also cited violations of the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, the Administrative Procedure Act, the Immigration and Nationality Act, and the Convention Against Torture.
The lawsuit, P.J.E.S. v. Wolf, was filed in district court in Washington, D.C. The ACLU of Texas and ACLU of D.C. are co-counsel.