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Justices Will Dissect Legality of Trump’s Wait-in-Mexico Policy

The Supreme Court said Monday it will rule on the Trump administration's policy of forcing asylum seekers on the southern border to wait in Mexico while U.S. courts process their claims.

WASHINGTON (CN) — The Supreme Court said Monday it will rule on the Trump administration's policy of forcing asylum seekers, regardless of where they fled from, to wait in Mexico while U.S. courts process their claims.

Though a federal judge found that the policy violated U.S. immigration law, and that ruling was later affirmed by the Ninth Circuit, the policy remains in place after the Supreme Court entered a stay in March pending its intervention.

Officially titled Migrant Protection Protocols, the policy more commonly understood as “Remain in Mexico” has affected more than 60,000 Central American asylum seekers, sending them to potentially dangerous cities in Mexico while their claims are adjudicated. Before this process was suspended due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Justice Department estimated in February that 25,000 people were waiting in Mexico for asylum hearings.

The policy is part of the Trump administration’s hardline tactics designed to reduce the number of immigrants who come to the U.S., even through official processes. In its April petition for certiorari, the Trump administration warned the Supreme Court that injunctive relief would breed chaos at the border.

“The unchecked flow of third-country migrants through Mexico to the United States strains both countries’ resources and produces significant public safety risks — not only to the citizens of Mexico and the United States, but also to the migrants themselves, who may be targeted by human smugglers,” the Department of Justice wrote in its petition. “MPP has played a key role in joint efforts to address the crisis, but the ruling below would upset those efforts and undermine Mexican confidence in U.S. foreign policy commitments.” 

The lead plaintiff is Innovation Law Lab, an organization that responds to emergency humanitarian situations. The lab is represented by the American Civil Liberties Union’s deputy director of immigration rights, Judy Rabinovitz.

“Asylum seekers face grave danger every day this illegal and depraved policy is in effect,” Rabinovitz said Monday in reaction to the high court’s intervention. “The courts have repeatedly ruled against it, and the Supreme Court should as well.”

The Supreme Court is set to hear this case in 2021, as its calendar for 2020 is already full.

Per their custom, the justices did not issue any comment in taking up the case. It remains to be seen if Democratic nominee Joe Biden will win the presidential election and rescind the policy before then.

A representative from the Department of Justice did not respond to a request for comment Monday.

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