(NewsNation) — The Supreme Court is keeping the pandemic-era limits on immigration in place indefinitely, dashing hopes of immigration advocates who had been anticipating their end this week.
In a ruling Tuesday, the Supreme Court extended a temporary stay that Chief Justice John Roberts issued last week.
The limits were put in place under then-President Donald Trump at the beginning of the pandemic. Under the restrictions, officials have expelled asylum-seekers inside the United States 2.5 million times and turned away most people who requested asylum at the border on grounds of preventing the spread of COVID-19. The restrictions are often referred to as Title 42 in reference to a 1944 public health law.
Immigration advocates sued to end the use of Title 42. They said the policy goes against American and international obligations to people fleeing to the U.S. to escape persecution. They’ve also argued that the policy is outdated as coronavirus treatments have improved.
In a statement Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the extended stay gives Congress “plenty of time” to pass comprehensive immigration reform measures and “truly fix our broken immigration system.”
“Title 42 is a public health measure, not an immigration enforcement measure, and it should not be extended indefinitely,” Jean-Pierre said.
The Supreme Court’s decision comes as thousands of migrants have gathered on the Mexican side of the border, filling shelters and worrying advocates who are scrambling to figure out how to care for them
The structure that was meant to be a barrier to the U.S. has, for many migrants, become a finish line.
On the U.S. side of the nation’s southwest border, officials are tasked with processing and transporting new arrivals while the line of hundreds of hopeful entrants forms each day.
The policy’s expiration has been hotly debated and is at the center of a legal battle that began when President Joe Biden’s administration sought to end the Trump-era policy in the spring.
Border officials raised concerns that lifting the policy would lead to an unmanageable increase of border crossings. Some migrants, however, say crossing this way was the last resort that followed failed attempts to enter the U.S. through other avenues.
Eugene, a migrant from Moldova, said Tuesday he was told the border was open. Eugene is 24 and has lived in the U.S. twice on a visa, but was recently denied this time around. Entering the U.S. this way wasn’t his first choice, but it’s the only one he has, he said.
“Last one,” Eugene said. “Last option.”
He’s seeking asylum after expressing support for the LGBT community in his native country, he said.
Having taken an Uber to the drop-off point where NewsNation crossed paths with him Tuesday, Eugene hopes to eventually reach Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
“They said, ‘Get out. Go walk,'” he said.
On Tuesday, Border Patrol agents in some areas said the time spent processing people arriving in the U.S. has kept officials from stopping smugglers operating on U.S. soil.
Yuma County Sheriff Leon Wilmot says his authority is limited since it’s a federal issue.
The administration has said that if Title 42 were lifted, the government would rely on Title 8, which expels migrants who do not show a legal basis to remain in the country.
As of Tuesday, the White House said it would comply with the Supreme Court’s order while continuing to prepare for the day Title 42 is eventually lifted.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.