Trump Wait-in-Mexico Asylum Policy Blocked as Too Dangerous

(Bloomberg) -- The Trump administration is blocked from making thousands of Central American migrants wait out the result of their asylum applications to the U.S. in Mexico.

The San Francisco-based appeals court on Friday upheld a judge’s order barring the Homeland Security Department’s policy, which prevents migrants from countries like Guatemala and Honduras from living in the U.S. during the yearslong review process.

The administration was allowed in May by a three-judge panel to implement the Migrant Protections Protocols policy -- one of its major initiatives to stem immigration across the U.S. southern border -- but Friday’s ruling halts it while the legal fight continues. The administration is expected to appeal again, possibly asking the Supreme Court to intervene.

”Uncontested evidence” shows that non-Mexicans returned to Mexico under Trump’s policy “risk substantial harm, even death, while they await adjudication of their applications for asylum,” U.S. Circuit Judge William Fletcher wrote for the majority in the 2-1 ruling.

As of January, more than 57,000 asylum seekers and migrants had been returned to Mexico to wait for their court dates, according to Human Rights First, a New York-based international nonprofit. The organization said Friday it has collected more than 1,000 public reports of kidnappings, torture, rape and assaults against asylum seekers, including at least 228 kidnapping incidents involving children.

The Justice Department said the administration has “acted faithfully to implement a statutory authority provided by Congress over two decades ago and signed into law by President Clinton.”

The court’s decision “not only ignores the constitutional authority of Congress and the administration for a policy in effect for over a year, but also extends relief beyond the parties before the court,” a department spokesman said in an emailed statement.

An attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union called on the administration to stop “putting asylum seekers in harm’s way.”

“The court forcefully rejected the Trump administration’s assertion that it could strand asylum seekers in Mexico and subject them to grave danger,” Judy Rabinovitz said in a statement.

Fletcher, who was appointed by President Bill Clinton, was joined in his opinion by Richard Paez, another Clinton appointee.

In a dissent, Circuit Judge Ferdinand Fernandez, an appointee of George H.W. Bush, said the lower-court order should have been struck down because the migrants challenging the policy weren’t likely to prevail on their claims.

In a separate ruling Friday, the same three-judge panel upheld a San Francisco judge’s 2018 order blocking the Trump administration’s policy of automatically denying asylum applications of migrants who cross the U.S. border outside official ports of entry.

The case is Innovation Law Lab v. McAleenan, 19-15716, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (San Francisco).

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

BQ Install

Bloomberg Quint

Add BloombergQuint App to Home screen.