NEW YORK (PIX11) – As February begins, advocates for immigration rights in New York are closely watching for possible developments out of Washington D.C. 

The Supreme Court is expected to debate if the controversial, COVID-era immigration measure called Title 42 should be suspended or remain in place for longer. 

“It is a misuse of the Title 42 statute, a statute which has been on the books specifically to turn people away for very discreet purposes when their entry could be deemed to pose a risk of communicable disease,” said Nicole Cata, director of immigrant rights policy at The New York Immigration Coalition. “It has been used for pretextual reasons really to prevent people from entering America. We think it’s entirely for political reasons as a way to try to manage people coming to the U.S. border.” 

Former President Donald Trump’s administration put the measure in place in March 2020 due to COVID-19. Title 42 overrides immigration law that allows people to seek asylum after they enter the United States on the grounds of a public health emergency. 

“We’ve seen, and the data has consistently shown, that title 42 has not helped, you know, stem the tide of the coronavirus pandemic and it’s really been used as a pretext to prevent people from entering the U.S. and seeking their right to present their asylum claims before courts,” Cata said.

The Department of Homeland Security has released a list of steps it will take should Title 42 come to an end, and that includes establishing new parole processes for Cubans, Haitians, and Nicaraguans, following the models already in place for Venezuelans and Ukrainians. According to the DHS, the new proceedings “combine safe, orderly, and lawful pathways to the United States, including authorization to work, with significant consequences for those who fail to use those pathways.”  

Meanwhile, U.S. Senate and House Democrats are making their cases on Capitol Hill. 

New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez joined Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) for a rally ahead of the Supreme Court hearing, which does not have a date set.

“This administration is making it effectively impossible to seek refuge at our border,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “There have been kidnappings, serious assaults and deaths against individuals who were expelled due to Title 42.” On the other side of the aisle, Republicans like Sen. Marsha Blackburn want to keep the current restriction. 

“There should be agreement that we’re going to fund Title 42,” said Blackburn, of Tennessee.  

After his trip to the Texas border in January, President Joe Biden announced he would allow as many as 30,000 migrants from Venezuela, Haiti, Cuba, and Nicaragua into the United States per month. Many of the asylum seekers ended up being bused from the Southern border to other parts of the country. 

New York has received more than 40,000 migrants since the spring of 2022. Because many migrants are staying in shelters provided by New York City, housing comes with a price tag. Mayor Eric Adams’ administration says this will cost nearly $2 billion in public funding.  

But some advocates disagree with the mayor’s assessment.

“The mayor has continued to scapegoat immigrants for his own failure to resolve the New York City shelter crisis,” said Cata. “If New York City is experiencing a crisis, it is a crisis of affordability and a crisis related to the shelter system; not a migrant crisis.” 

Adams has also faced criticism from other advocacy groups who say he is not providing enough funds for asylum seekers in his preliminary budget, which was announced in January. The mayor has consistently called on the federal government for financial help, saying that this crisis is a national problem.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul on Wednesday pitched $1 billion in funding for services and resettlement assistance for migrants as part of her $227 billion state budget proposal. The governor also said she’s spoken to President Joe Biden, who she said promised federal dollars but did not provide a specific number.

The Supreme Court is expected to decide on the future of Title 42 at some point in February.