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    Appeals court rules Trump administration can make asylum seekers wait in Mexico for n

    Appeals court rules Trump administration can make asylum seekers wait in Mexico for now

    Alan Gomez, USA TODAYPublished 6:12 a.m. MT May 8, 2019 | Updated 8:21 a.m. MT May 8, 2019

    The number of migrant families and children entering the U.S. from Mexico is so high that Border Patrol is immediately releasing them. The Rio Grande Valley Border Patrol Chief says more migrants are coming through his area. (March 29) AP, AP


    The Trump administration can continue forcing Central American asylum seekers to return to Mexico while their cases are decided following a ruling from a federal appeals court on Tuesday.
    President Donald Trump has repeatedly bashed the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for what he has described as flawed and politically-motivated rulings striking down his different efforts to strengthen immigration enforcement. "It's a disgrace," he said last year.
    But on Tuesday, a three-judge panel of that court handed Trump a major, if temporary, win in his quest to halt the record-setting flow of migrants pouring across the southern border. The panel reversed a decision by a San Francisco judge that would have blocked the administration's Migration Protection Protocols, which launched in January in California and has been slowly rolled out along the rest of the border.
    U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg ruled in April that the new policy was not properly implemented and violated both U.S. laws and international treaties the U.S. is party to that dictate the proper treatment of refugees. Seeborg wrote that sending people who are already vulnerable into Mexican border towns "where they face undue risk to their lives and freedom."

    But the 9th Circuit found that the Mexican government can be entrusted to care for the asylum seekers as they wait for their U.S. immigration court hearings.
    "The plaintiffs fear substantial injury upon return to Mexico, but the likelihood of harm is reduced somewhat by the Mexican government's commitment to honor its international law obligations and to grant humanitarian status and work permits to individuals returned under MPP," the panel wrote.

    Immigration and civil rights groups who filed the lawsuit on behalf of 11 Central American migrants said Mexico cannot be entrusted with such a massive task, given that the small number of shelters operating in Mexican border towns are already overwhelmed.
    "Asylum seekers have already been killed and harmed while in Tijuana," said Archi Pyati, the chief of policy for the Tahirih Justice Center, one of the groups that filed the lawsuit. "It is shocking that the government, knowing these risks, continues to push for this course of action."
    In this Tuesday, March 19, 2019 file photo, a van carrying asylum seekers from the border is escorted by security personnel as it arrives at immigration court, in San Diego. A federal appeals court ruled Tuesday, May 7, 2019, that the Trump administration can force asylum seekers to wait in Mexico for immigration court hearings while the policy is challenged in court, handing the president a major victory, even if it proves temporary. (Photo: Gregory Bull, AP)

    The appeals court was only weighing whether the policy, unofficially known as Remain in Mexico, can proceed as the larger legal case over its legality is settled by the courts. The case must still be considered on its merits and could end up before the Supreme Court.
    The Trump administration has been blocked from implementing several other policies to limit or cut off asylum. But for now, the administration can forge ahead with the Remain in Mexico plan.
    Since the policy went into effect on January 29 at the San Ysidro Port of Entry that connects San Diego with Tijuana, the U.S. has sent back 3,267 Central American asylum seekers, Mexico's immigration agency said Monday.
    The policy slowly expanded to Calexico, Calif., and El Paso, Texas, and Homeland Security officials say it will continue expanding to other ports in the months to come.
    Under the policy, asylum seekers arrive in the U.S. and request asylum. If they are deemed to have a "credible fear" of returning to their home country, their asylum application is accepted and they must return to Mexico.
    When they have hearings scheduled in U.S. immigration court, they report to a border crossing and the U.S. government provides transportation to court and they're returned back to Mexico when the hearing is concluded.
    The policy was introduced to deal with the ever-growing number of asylum-seeking families from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. In March, 53,077 members of family units illegally crossed the border, an all-time high, with most requesting asylum.
    Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan has described that flood as a humanitarian and security crisis, the result of weak U.S. immigration laws that need to be fixed by Congress.
    This week, the president's adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is expected to unveil a broad immigration reform bill he has been working on to close the "loopholes" that have allowed most asylum-seeking families to be released into the U.S. as they wait months, or even years, for their day in immigration court.
    But as Congress has struggled to forge any kind of immigration compromise, the Trump administration is left conducting its unilateral enforcement actions and constantly defending them in court. And in the case of the Remain in Mexico plan, lawyers who are challenging the policy feel they will ultimately win out.
    "Two of the three judges that heard this request found that there are serious legal problems with what the government is doing, so there is good reason to believe that ultimately this policy will be put to a halt," said Omar Jadwat, director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, which is part of the lawsuit.

    Contributing: The Associated Press.

    7 Photos
    Immigration advocates stage sit-in on Capitol Hill

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