WASHINGTON (CN) — The Trump administration can enforce its policy of making asylum seekers stay in Mexico while their claims are decided, after the Supreme Court ordered temporary relief Wednesday.
Known officially as the migrant-protection protocols and colloquially as the remain-in-Mexico policy, the program enacted early last year has sent more than 60,000 asylum seekers to Mexico while their claims are adjudicated.
While the justices did not explain the decision to grant the stay Wednesday, as is the practice, the short order does indicate Justice Sonia Sotomayor would have kept an injunction in place against the policy.
The injunction took effect in April after a federal judge in California ruled that the policy had be implemented arbitrarily. Though the Ninth Circuit upheld that ruling on Feb. 28, it limited the scope of injunction last week
As the Trump administration seeks the Supreme Court relief now, Wednesday’s stay allows the policy to remain in place until the justices deliver a ruling on the merits. If they opt not to hear the case, meanwhile, the stay expires.
In its stay application, the Trump administration warned that the injunction will breed chaos at the border.
"The injunction and the Ninth Circuit's decision nullify an essential effort by the government to address the unprecedented number of migrants arriving at our southwest border and seeking protection against removal, often without a legal basis," the Trump administration wrote.
On the other side of the case, immigration and civil rights groups say the policy has exposed asylum seekers to violence.
"The court of appeals unequivocally declared this policy to be illegal," Judy Rabinovitz, an attorney with the ACLU who represents the groups challenging the policy, said in a statement. "The Supreme Court should as well. Asylum seekers face grave danger and irreversible harm every day this depraved policy remains in effect."
The Justice Department defended the remain-in-Mexico policy, calling it critical for the administration's immigration strategy.
"We are gratified that the Supreme Court granted a stay, which prevents a district court injunction from impairing the security of our borders and the integrity of our immigration system," a representative for Justice said in a statement. "The migrant protection protocols, implemented pursuant to express authority granted by Congress decades ago, have been critical to restoring the government's ability to manage the southwest border and to work cooperatively with the Mexican government to address illegal immigration."
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