RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Attorney General Jason Miyares says ending pandemic-era immigration restrictions would cause Virginia and other states irreparable harm.
On Monday, the Supreme Court stepped in at the last minute to temporarily stop the termination of Title 42 in response to concerns from Republicans like Miyares.
“My hope is that Title 42 stays in place for the remainder of the Biden Administration so that we can have some control over what is happening at our borders. It is a humanitarian crisis. It is a human trafficking crisis. It is an overdose crisis,” Miyares said in an interview on Tuesday, Dec. 20.
Former President Donald Trump triggered the public health order in the early days of the pandemic to stop the spread of COVID-19. It’s still being used today to expel migrants more quickly without considering their claims of asylum.
An emergency appeal filed by 19 Republican-led states asked the Supreme Court to intervene and delay the end of the policy. The attorneys general argued an expected surge of migrants would increase state law enforcement, education and healthcare costs.
“Such a stay is particularly appropriate given the enormous harms that would otherwise be inflicted upon the States and further because there is not the slightest indication that DHS could ever meaningfully remedy those harms after they have occurred,” the attorneys general wrote.
Asked if he believes these “enormous harms” will be seen in Virginia specifically, Miyares said, “We lose four Virginians a day to overdoses from fentanyl that is coming over our Southern border. We have a complete lack of control over what is happening, so yes.”
Legal Aid Justice Center Litigation Director Simon Sandoval-Moshenberg is among those offering legal services to immigrants seeking asylum in Virginia. He said they’re preparing for a possible spike after more than two years of pent-up demand.
“What we have historically seen over the past decade is that Virginia is about the number five, sometimes number six, destination state of the immigrants coming across the southern border. So just because we are not physically located on the border doesn’t mean these things don’t effect us here in Virginia,” Moshenberg said.
Moshenberg said they’re already hearing from people whose family members are stuck in Mexico awaiting the end of Title 42.
“All we can tell them is just keep waiting a little while longer,” Moshenberg said. “Desperation has caused a lot of people to try to sneak across the border undetected, which is very dangerous.”
Moshenberg said Title 42 is no longer needed to protect public health and he disagrees that ending it will cause “irreparable harm.” He said the policy is wrongfully punishing immigrants for the federal government’s failure to reform a broken system.
“At this point, it’s just transparently an excuse to keep immigrants out,” Moshenberg said.
Miyares, who has routinely opposed mask requirements and vaccine mandates, pushed back on the argument that Title 42 is not justified on public health grounds.
“As far as those who say this is no longer needed, I would just point out what is happening in China. The pandemic has exploded,” Miyares said.
Title 42 was originally expected to end on Wednesday, Dec. 21, at midnight. Now, it will remain in effect until the Supreme Court lifts its stay, a timeline that remained unclear as of Tuesday afternoon. The order signed by Justice Roberts requests a response from the Biden administration by 5 p.m. eastern time on Tuesday.