US ends asylum restrictions for children traveling alone

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FILE – A Cuban woman and her daughter wait in line to be escorted to a Border Patrol van for processing in Yuma, Ariz., Sunday, Feb. 6, 2022, hoping to remain in the United States to seek asylum. U.S. authorities have lifted a public health order to expel unaccompanied children at borders without a chance at asylum, while leaving it in place for adults and people traveling in families. (AP Photo/Elliot Spagat, File)

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ATLANTA (AP) — Unaccompanied child migrants trying to enter the United States will no longer be denied a chance to seek asylum under new guidance announced by U.S. health authorities.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in announcing the change late Friday night, said: “that expulsion of unaccompanied non-citizen children is not warranted to protect the public health.”

The change was announced shortly before a court order took effect that would have allowed the Biden administration to expel unaccompanied children seeking asylum under Title 42 authority, which was introduced in March 2020 to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The order remains in place for adults and families traveling with children.

The CDC said that testing and other preventive measures allow children traveling alone to be released to sponsors in the United States. Sponsors are typically family or other close relatives.

A federal judge ruled in a lawsuit by the state of Texas that the CDC failed to explain why children traveling alone were exempted from Title 42, and gave the administration a week to appeal. Instead, the CDC lifted the order — but only for unaccompanied children.

Migrants have been expelled more than 1.6 million times under Title 42, named for a 1944 public health law. Biden has kept the order in place but exempted unaccompanied children during his first days in office.

Prominent Democrats and advocacy groups have been pressing to end Title 42 for all migrants. “It is not a humane or effective solution to securing our border,” U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, tweeted Friday.

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