Asylum Seekers Move to Block Trump Administration Restrictions

Asylum-seekers “wait in Mexico” for permission to seek asylum in the United States in this April 30, 2018, file photo from Tijuana, where asylum seekers are regularly threatened with violence and robbery, from criminals and police. (AP file photo/Hans-Maximo Musielik)

SAN DIEGO (CN) – The class challenging the Trump administration’s practice of turning away asylum seekers at the U.S-Mexico border asked a judge to prevent new restrictions on asylum claims allowed by the Supreme Court earlier this month from applying to their immigration cases.

Attorneys for the class in Al Otro Lado v. McAleenan announced Thursday they asked for a preliminary injunction in the Southern District of California seeking to block the July 16 policy which now requires asylum seekers to have first sought asylum in countries they passed through and denied before seeking asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border.

The Supreme Court allowed the new restrictions to take effect this month after a California judge blocked them and the Ninth Circuit limited the judge’s injunction to apply only to the U.S.-Mexico border states within the circuit, California and Arizona.

If granted, the injunction requested Thursday would prevent the new policy from applying to people who were metered at ports of entry before July 16.

Attorneys at the Southern Poverty Law Center and Center for Constitutional Rights said on a conference call Thursday their clients who have been on waitlists maintained by third parties in Tijuana, Mexico, wouldn’t be able to seek asylum relief in Mexico under the new policy.

Mexico requires those who seek asylum to do so within 30 days of arriving in the country. Since some of the class members have been waiting in Tijuana for months based on metering restrictions or were returned to the country under the “Migrant Protection Protocols” they’re ineligible to now seek asylum there, according to Southern Poverty Law Center’s senior supervising attorney Melissa Crow.

There’s currently a backlog of 26,000 people waiting in Mexico, Crow said.

Center for Constitutional Rights legal director Baher Azmy noted the government instituted a metering policy at ports of entry limiting the number of asylum seekers inspected and processed by immigration officials. If the asylum seekers had never been placed on “endless waitlists” their cases would have already been adjudicated, he said.

Baher said the injunction will “stop the government from leveraging one illegality to protect another.”

The 33-page injunction request reiterates the only reason the plaintiffs are even subject to the new asylum restrictions is because of the “wait in Mexico” policies which have delayed the adjudication of their asylum claims.

“The very reason the provisional class members face application of the categorical prohibition in the asylum ban is the unlawful metering policy which forced them to wait in Mexico. These class members would have had their asylum claims heard under pre-existing law but for the illegal metering policy that is challenged in this case,” the motion says. “Yet application of the asylum ban – and return to a class member’s country of origin to face persecution – would effectively foreclose plaintiffs’ ability to challenge the metering policy.”

The request does not challenge the new asylum restrictions but seeks to preserve the status quo so that plaintiffs are not ineligible for asylum based on new restrictions implemented while they were following previous directives of the federal government to “wait in Mexico” before their claims could be heard.

American Immigration Council managing director of programs Royce Murray suggested the flurry of new immigration policies has created chaos at the border.

“If they want people to follow the rules, they need to be consistent and clear,” Murray said.

The plaintiff asks U.S. District Judge Cynthia Bashant to rule on the injunction request before the end of October.

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