The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday canceled scheduled arguments in a case in which Republicans sought to keep in place a policy introduced under former President Donald Trump that has let American officials quickly expel hundreds of thousands of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border.
The policy, known as Title 42, was implemented by Trump’s administration in March 2020 – early in the COVID-19 pandemic – as a measure tied to a public health emergency.
The justices removed it from their argument calendar after the Justice Department told them on Feb. 7 the case would become moot because Title 42 will expire in light of an announcement by President Joe Biden’s administration that the recognition of a COVID-19 public health emergency will end effective May 11.
The justices were due to hear the case on March 1. Nixing the Republican legal action lessens the chances of keeping the policy in place.
Biden, a Democrat, had kept Title 42 in place after taking office in January 2021 despite fierce criticism from within his own party. Republicans have criticized Biden’s border policies as weak, blaming him for the high numbers of migrants trying to cross into the United States.
At issue in the case, which the court agreed to hear in December, was whether a group of Republican state attorneys general may intervene to defend the Title 42 expulsions after U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan in November ruled the public health order unlawful in a lawsuit by asylum-seeking migrant families.
The Supreme Court voted 5-4 in December to keep in place the Title 42 policy, putting on hold Sullivan’s decision.
Biden’s administration sought to lift the policy after U.S. health authorities said last year it was no longer needed to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but the effort was blocked by a federal judge in Louisiana.
A federal appeals court denied a separate request by Republican state officials to intervene in the litigation to try to preserve Title 42. The officials appealed that decision to the Supreme Court, telling the justices that ending Title 42 would lead to an increase in U.S.-Mexico border crossings resulting in significant new financial burdens for the states.