A federal appeals court stopped Trump administration on Friday from sending asylum seekers to Mexico while waiting for their immigration hearings in the US.
Reports said it is a slap to the administration as it has relied heavily on the program to send back thousands of migrants to Mexico.
Based on reports, the verdict by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals applies on all the southern border and strips the administration of one of its key asylum policies, which began in January 2019.
The Ninth Circuit also released another ruling that maintained a lower court’s block on an administration policy denying asylum to those who crossed the southern border illegally.
Trump administration’s “remain in Mexico” policy required migrants, many of whom are from Central America, to go back to Mexico until their respective court dates in the US. On Thursday, acting Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Mark Morgan reported 59,000 people have been enrolled in the program, formally known as the Migrant Protection Protocols program.
Officials from the Trump administration have repeatedly mentioned the policy as a success and attributed it in part to the drop in arrests along the southern border. However, immigrant advocates have argued that the said policy placed migrants in harm’s way as they waited in unsecured makeshift camps.
Judge William Fletcher said in a statement:
“The MPP has had serious adverse consequences for the individual plaintiffs.”
“Plaintiffs presented evidence in the district court that they, as well as others, returned to Mexico under the MPP, face targeted discrimination, physical violence, sexual assault, overwhelmed and corrupt law enforcement, lack of food and shelter, and practical obstacles to participation in court proceedings in the United States.
The hardship and danger to individuals returned to Mexico under the MPP have been repeatedly confirmed by reliable news reports.”
On the other hand, American Civil Liberties Union attorney Judy Rabinovitz said on a statement on Friday:
“The court forcefully rejected the Trump administration’s assertion that it could strand asylum seekers in Mexico and subject them to grave danger. It’s time for the administration to follow the law and stop putting asylum seekers in harm’s way.”
Reports also say that the group filed a lawsuit Friday challenging the administration’s transfer of military funds for the construction of the border wall.
Just last month, 18 members of Congress went on one of those camps in Matamoros, Mexico, which is located near the US border. Democratic Rep. Rosa DeLauro, of Connecticut, expressed outrage over the program as she walked on the dirt path between tents and clothes hanging on trees.
DeLauro said in an interview:
“They sleep under that tent.”
“We have created here an unbelievable outrage against humanity.”
The House Judiciary Committee had also declared an investigation into the policy, asking for documents and data from acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf.
The Department of Homeland Security recognized the policy required changes before. The changes were detailed in an internal memo they provided to CNN, including a review of information-sharing processes between federal agencies and tracking no-show rates.
For now, reports said it’s unclear what will happen to the migrants who were already subjected to the “remain in Mexico” policy.
Southern Poverty Law Center attorney Mellissa Crow said in an interview:
“Today’s ruling is an important victory for the tens of thousands of vulnerable migrants from all over the world who have been trapped in Mexico — making it nearly impossible for them to exercise their legal rights.”
“It is also an important step in addressing the U.S. government-created humanitarian crisis that has resulted from the implementation of this policy.”