White House accuses fed Judge Kent Wetherell of ‘sabotage’ after blocking potential mass release of migrants

White House accuses fed Judge Kent Wetherell of 'sabotage' after blocking potential mass release of migrants

WASHINGTON — White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre attacked a federal judge for “sabotage” Friday after the jurist blocked the potential mass release of migrants at the US-Mexico border — as President Biden offered no comment on the crisis at his only public event of the day.

Jean-Pierre made the unusual attack on Florida US District Judge Kent Wetherell hours after he forbade the release of migrants on “parole” without a court date if detention capacity is exceeded, issuing the order hours before the end of the Title 42 COVID-19 expulsion program.

“On the ruling that you just you just laid out to me — so look, the way we see that, it’s sabotage, it’s pure and simple. That’s how that reads to us,” Jean-Pierre said. “The claims that CBP is allowing or encouraging release of migrants is just categorically false … and it is a harmful ruling.”

In fact, The Post and other outlets have reported on hundreds of migrants being sent on to the American interior from border cities. In El Paso, Texas alone, more than 1,100 migrants were released from US Customs and Border Protection custody on Thursday.

Jean-Pierre reaffirmed her choice of words moments later, again saying, “it’s a harmful ruling … we need Congress — beyond the ruling, beyond what we’re seeing from the sabotage, pure and simple … we want Congress to act.”

Karine Jean-Pierre
Karine Jean-Pierre attacked a federal judge for “sabotage” Friday.
Al Drago/UPI/Shutterstock

When yet another journalist asked Jean-Pierre whether she was attacking the judge or Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody, who brought the suit, Jean-Pierre said, “I won’t go into a specific person,” passing on the opportunity to disavow her disparagement of one of the other two branches of government.

The White House’s main spokeswoman didn’t specify what policies Congress should enact to address the border rush.

Biden, meanwhile, didn’t mention the dramatic scenes unfolding at the border while welcoming Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez to the White House — the US leader’s only scheduled public appearance of the day.

“We are both facing the challenges of migration in the Western Hemisphere and you’re doing a heck of a job,” Biden told Sanchez before refusing to answer any shouted reporter questions.

Jean-Pierre defended Biden’s lack of comment on the crisis after he predicted a “chaotic” period at the frontier on Tuesday.

“Secretary [Alejandro] Mayorkas is a powerful messenger,” Jean-Pierre said, referring to the Homeland Security secretary who appeared in the White House briefing room on Thursday.

“He took your questions twice this week,” Jean-Pierre said of Biden, adding that “a week ago today, he sat down and had a one-on-one interview with one of your colleagues, [MSNBC anchor Stephanie Ruhle] … and was asked about Title 42.”

Migrants wait for food and water to be handed handed out, after gathering between the primary and secondary border fences, between the United States and Mexico, after the lifting of COVID-19 era Title 42 restrictions that have blocked migrants at the border from seeking asylum since 2020, near San Diego, California, U.S., May 12, 2023.
In El Paso, Texas alone, more than 1,100 migrants were released from US Customs and Border Protection custody on Thursday.

A DHS-organized press call on Friday morning, meanwhile, triggered outrage when administration officials required press to pre-submit their questions. An official later told Fox News journalist Jacqui Heinrich that the vetting of queries would not happen again and that it was “a new system… in an effort of transparency” to ask journalists for their questions in advance.

Meanwhile, throngs of migrants waited to cross the border Friday in blistering heat and a leaked Department of Homeland Security memo reported by the New York Times said the crisis could get much worse. An estimated 660,000 migrants from around the world may be in Mexico planning to enter the US, the memo said.

What is Title 42 and what does its end mean for US border immigration?

What is Title 42?

Title 42 is a federal health measure enforced by the US Border Patrol. It allows the agency to kick certain migrants out of the US and return them to Mexico. This includes asylum seekers, who under international law have the legal right to make an asylum claim in America.

Currently, migrants who cross the border illegally and who are from Cuba, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua or Venezuela are subject to Title 42 and could be sent to Mexico.

How did Title 42 start?

President Donald Trump invoked the law in 2020 at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, asking the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to issue the policy. The Trump administration made the case that keeping migrants out of the country would slow down the spread of infections and maintain the safety of federal agents encountering migrants.

What has happened with Title 42 under Biden?

When President Biden took over, he continued to enforce Title 42 with one important change from his predecessor. Biden said Border Patrol agents were only allowed to expel migrants from certain countries under his direction. That meant migrants seeking asylum from countries like Cuba and Venezuela could still seek asylum if they arrived at the border and stay in the US while their cases were decided in court — unless they had a criminal record.

What is happening with Title 42 now?

Title 42 is supposed to be a health policy, not an immigration law. It will end at 11:59 p.m. May 11, when the Biden administration ends all COVID-19-related policies.

Why is it controversial?

Many have called for the policy’s end, saying it’s illegal and that international law guarantees people the right to seek asylum.

Others, like Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, warn that the southern border could see up to 13,000 migrants per day crossing with the intention to stay in the country when the measure ends.

What would the end of Title 42 mean for immigration into the US?

It’s unclear exactly how many people have been expelled under Title 42 because there have been scores of people who have attempted to enter the country numerous times and been rejected again and again, but the US Border Patrol said it made an all-time high of more than 2.3 million arrests at the border in the last fiscal year. Forty percent of people who were expelled from the country were ejected under the rules of Title 42.


The migrant crisis began shortly after Biden took office and Republicans accuse him of creating new “pull” factors — a stance also taken by the presidents of Guatemala and Mexico. Biden aides generally emphasis “push” factors such as crime and poverty and say the COVID-19 pandemic worsened them.

On his first day in office in January 2021, Biden halted funding to construct former President Donald Trump’s US-Mexico border wall. That June, Biden ended Trump’s “Remain in Mexico” policy that required most asylum seekers who reached the southern border to await US court rulings south of the border.

Joe Biden
Republicans also accuse Biden of illegally allowing nearly one million migrants arrested at the border while Title 42 was in effect.

The Biden administration this week also sought to direct blame for the border rush onto what it branded a “broken” immigration system. Biden’s proposals for reform included legalizing almost all migrants currently in the US illegally, which Republicans say would incentivize even more new arrivals.

Republicans also accuse Biden of illegally allowing nearly 1 million migrants arrested at the border while Title 42 was in effect to be released into the US without a court date under “parole” programs or via notices to report to badly backlogged local ICE offices, where they will be placed into legal proceedings and have their asylum claims adjudicated.

New York City’s ICE office backlog means that migrants may wait a decade just for an appointment to get a court date. Immigration courts then take on average another four years to reach a decision.

Asylum applicants are granted US work permits while they wait and any children they have in the US automatically become citizens — setting the stage for potential heartbreak years later if their claims are denied, as most ultimately are, immigration hardliners say.

In fiscal 2021 courts denied 63% of asylum claims — and judges denied 71% of claims the year before, according to data compiled by the University of Syracuse.

A Biden administration parole program rolled out in January sought to tamp down illegal border crossings by allowing 30,000 people per month from four nations — Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua and Venezuela — to get pre-approval to enter the US at legal points of entry and then await court rulings, which some Republican politicians also decry as illegal.

The Biden administration gradually relaxed enforcement of Title 42, which under former President Donald Trump was used to turn away nearly everyone who illegally crossed the border during the pandemic. Biden at first allowed unaccompanied minors to remain, then gradually allowed greater numbers of family units and single adults.

There were nearly 2.4 million arrests for illegally crossing the US-Mexico border in fiscal 2022, which ended Sept. 30 — up from an elevated 1.7 million in fiscal 2021, fewer than 500,000 in fiscal 2020 and nearly 1 million in fiscal 2019. Those figures do not include migrants who evaded arrest.

So far in fiscal 2023, apprehensions of migrants are up 4% at the southern border.

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