SAN DIEGO — A Supreme Court justice put a temporary hold on the expiration of a health rule that denied migrants from entering the U.S. due to COVID-19.

That rule, Title 42, was set to expire on Dec. 21.

Those in favor of Title 42 staying in place say if it is lifted, the number of illegal crossings will skyrocket.

But those against Title 42 say this rule should have expired long ago.

Apprehensions and encounters at the border are at an all-time high. Customs and Border Protection Fiscal Year 2023 stats showed San Diego encounters at more than 17,700.

“We’ve never had this many people come across the border ever, ever,” retired Border Patrol Agent Chris Harris said. “It’s the worst I’ve ever seen in five administrations.”

Those encounters include Title 42 expulsions. Title 42 is a public health order that allows agents to turn away migrants encountered at the border to stop the spread of COVID-19.

“Border Patrol has now the power to expel those migrants back into Mexico so it’s denying them their due process rights and it ensures that people in Mexico are now much more susceptible to falling victim of crime,” said Pedro Rios with American Friends Service.

Title 42 was set to expire this week, but Supreme Court Justice Roberts issued a stay on the order.

Retired Border Patrol agent Chris Harris says if it expires, illegal crossings will spike, stressing already overwhelmed agents and resources at the border.

“It was, I don’t want to say nerve wrecking but it was something that bothered me a lot to know that this was going to happen and we have no plans to really deal with it or we’re going to go back to Title 8 which is immigration law. Well that’s not going to happen,” Harris said. “We don’t have enough bed space. We don’t have enough. Any resources. So I was very pleased to see the Chief Justice say we’re putting a hold on this order.”

Rios says Title 42 was used as a tool to block migrants from legitimately seeking asylum into U.S. and should expire.

“The United States government has not adhered to the rule of law to prevent people to seek asylum. Asylum is a complex, legal avenue that people have to secure safety in a country and the United States must adhere and ensure that people have that right,” Rios said.

Justice Roberts asked the Biden Administration to respond by 5 p.m. ET Tuesday.