Supreme Court authorizes resumption of evictions during pandemic

WASHINGTON (AP) – The Conservative Supreme Court majority allows deportations across the United States to resume, preventing the Biden administration from enforcing a temporary ban that has been put in place due to the coronavirus pandemic.

About 3.5 million people in the United States said they were at risk of deportation over the next two months, according to Census Bureau data in early August.

The court said in an unsigned notice Thursday that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which reimposed the moratorium on Aug. 3, did not have the power to do so under federal law without express permission from Congress. The judges rejected the administration’s arguments in support of the CDC’s authority.

“If a federally-imposed moratorium on evictions is to continue, Congress must specifically authorize it,” the court wrote.

The three Liberal judges were dissenting. Judge Stephen Breyer, writing for all three, pointed to the increase in COVID-19 caused by the delta variant as one of the reasons the court should have left the moratorium in place. “The public interest is strongly in favor of upholding the CDC judgment at this time, as over 90% of counties experience high transmission rates,” Breyer wrote.

It was the administration’s second defeat this week at the hands of the Conservative High Court majority. On Tuesday, the court effectively authorized the reinstatement of a Trump-era policy requiring asylum seekers to wait in Mexico for their hearings. The new administration had attempted to end the Remain in Mexico program, as it is unofficially known.

On evictions, President Joe Biden acknowledged the legal hurdles the new moratorium would likely encounter. But Biden said that even with doubts about what the courts would do, it was worth a try because it would buy at least a few weeks of time for the distribution of more of the $ 46.5 billion. rent aid approved by Congress.

The Treasury Department said on Wednesday that the pace of distribution has accelerated and that nearly one million homes have been helped. But only about 11% of the money, just over $ 5 billion, was distributed by state and local governments, the department said.

The administration called on state and local authorities to “act more aggressively” in distributing rental assistance funds and urged state and local courts to issue their own moratoria to “discourage eviction requests” until owners and tenants have requested the funds.

The High Court strongly hinted at the end of June that it would take this route if asked again to intervene. At that point, the court allowed an earlier break on evictions until the end of July.

But four Conservative justices would then have overturned the moratorium and a fifth, Judge Brett Kavanaugh, said Congress should expressly allow a new pause on evictions. Neither house of Congress has adopted a new moratorium on evictions.

The administration first allowed the previous moratorium to expire on July 31, saying it had no legal authority to allow it to continue. But the CDC issued a new moratorium days later as pressure mounted from lawmakers and others to help vulnerable tenants stay in their homes as the delta variant of the coronavirus increased. The moratorium was due to expire on October 3.

Homeowners in Alabama and Georgia who had challenged the earlier eviction ban quickly returned to court, where they were kindly heard. US Judge Dabney Friedrich, appointed by former President Donald Trump, said the new moratorium exceeded the authority of the CDC.

But Friedrich said she was powerless to stop her due to an earlier ruling from the Washington, DC federal appeals court, which sits above her. The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit also refused to stay the CDC’s order, resulting in the owners’ emergency appeal to the Supreme Court.

Earlier versions of the moratorium, first ordered under Trump’s presidency, applied nationwide and was put in place out of fear that people who could not pay their rent would end up in living conditions. crowded as homeless shelters and help spread the virus.

The new moratorium temporarily halted evictions in counties with “substantial and high levels” of virus transmission and would cover areas where 90% of the US population lives.

The Biden administration has argued that the increase in the delta variant underscores the dangers of resuming evictions in areas with high COVID-19 transmission. But this argument did not gain broad support in the High Court.

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