U.S. Supreme Court dismisses dispute over Title 42 border expulsions

By Andrew Chung

(Reuters) -The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday dismissed a case in which Republicans sought to keep in place a policy introduced under former President Donald Trump that had let American officials quickly expel hundreds of thousands of migrants at the U.S.-Mexican 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. President Joe Biden's administration allowed the policy to expire last week, with new asylum restrictions taking effect.

At issue in the case, which the court had agreed to hear in December, was whether a group of Republican state attorneys general could intervene to defend the Title 42 policy 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 had voted 5-4 in December to keep in place the Title 42 policy, putting on hold Sullivan's decision.

The Supreme Court removed the case from its argument calendar after the Justice Department said in February that the case would become moot because Title 42 would expire in light of a Biden administration announcement that the recognition of a COVID-19 public health emergency would end effective May 11.

The justices on Thursday threw out a lower court's ruling that rejected the states' bid to intervene, concluding that the states' request was now moot.

In a statement agreeing with the decision, conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch, who had dissented from December's decision to maintain Title 42, repeated his criticism that "the current border crisis is not a COVID crisis."

Gorsuch added that the court in December "took a serious misstep when it effectively allowed nonparties to this case to manipulate our docket to prolong an emergency decree designed for one crisis in order to address an entirely different one. Today's dismissal goes some way to correcting that error."

(Reporting by Andrew Chung in New York; Editing by Will Dunham)