Stranded Asylum Seekers Ask Appeals Court to Let Them In

(Bloomberg) -- Central Americans seeking asylum in the U.S. said they’ve waited long enough in Mexico for their applications to be assessed under a Trump administration policy they call unlawful.

On Tuesday, their advocates asked the federal appeals court in San Francisco to rule that the policy is illegal. Such a ruling would open the border gates to about 45,000 people, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.

The three-judge panel didn’t decide whether to uphold a judge’s ruling to block the “forced return” policy, as the ACLU asked, but it expressed concern why the government doesn’t ask immigrants whether they had any fears about being sent back to Mexico. It’s standard practice for asylum seekers to be asked if they are fearful of returning to their home countries.

The appeals court previously has allowed the policy to remain in effect during the litigation -- which the ACLU says is endangering the tens of thousands of people.

Stranded Asylum Seekers Ask Appeals Court to Let Them In

“Individuals returned to Mexico are sent to areas with some of the highest murder rates in the world,” the ACLU said in a court filing. “They face extreme dangers -- killings, kidnappings, sexual assault, robbery, and other forms of violence -- from cartels, the gangs they fled their home countries to escape, corrupt government officials, and an anti-migrant sentiment.”

The lawsuit is one of the many fronts on which immigrant rights’ advocates have been battling the administration’s efforts to block entry to the swelling number of migrants from Central American countries.

The government also is trying to stop people from applying for asylum in the U.S. if they didn’t make such an application in another country on their way to the U.S. -- so a person from El Salvador should have applied for asylum in Guatemala, or Mexico, according to the U.S.

In another case the appeals court heard Tuesday, the U.S. is seeking to overturn a judge’s decision that found it was illegal to require asylum seekers to apply only at official border crossings.

An appeals panel in December rejected the government’s request to put the judge’s ruling on hold while the case was tried. The panel said it was likely the rule was “arbitrary and capricious.”

The cases are: East Bay Sanctuary Covenant v. Trump, 18-17274, and Innovation Law Lab v. McAleenan, 19-15716, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth District (San Francisco).

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