Trump Blocked From Making Asylum Seekers Wait in Mexico

Two Honduran men pray with attorneys before crossing into the United States after being returned to Mexico in Tijuana to await asylum hearings. (AP file photo/Gregory Bull)

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – A federal judge ruled against the Trump administration’s policy of forcing asylum seekers to wait in Mexico while immigration officials process their cases.

U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg granted a preliminary injunction barring the Department of Homeland Security from implementing a policy requiring Central Americans to wait in Mexico while their asylum applications are processed.

Seeborg was careful to note his order was not deciding the question of whether the policy itself was legal, or whether homeland security maintained sufficient authority.

“This injunction turns on the narrow issue of whether the MPP complies with the Administrative Procedure Act,” Seeborg wrote in the 27-page order. “The conclusion of this order is only that plaintiffs are likely to show it does not.”

MPP refers to “Migrant Protection Protocols”, a policy announced by the Trump administration in January that sought to curtail the influx of Central Americans fleeing violence into the United States.

This month, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen promised to expand the policy in response to a surge in asylum seekers in February and March. President Donald Trump toured the U.S.-Mexico border in California last week and said the United States is “full” and cannot accommodate any more migrants.

The president has argued in recent weeks that Central Americans are abusing the asylum system, pretending to be vulnerable people fleeing violence because they know detention centers are full and will be released into the general population while awaiting the outcome of their application.

Seeborg said Homeland Security’s policy refers to a statute that does not apply to the current situation and the government would be required to show that forcing migrants to wait in Mexico would not create “unduly dangerous circumstances.”

The ruling means the 11 plaintiffs currently being held in Mexico will be allowed to enter the United States when Seeborg’s injunction takes effect on April 12.

The lead plaintiff is Innovation Law Lab and several other organizational plaintiffs joined the suit.  

The American Civil Liberties Union, whose deputy director of immigration rights Judy Rabinovitz argued for a preliminary injunction, hailed the ruling Monday.

“Try as it may, the Trump administration cannot simply ignore our laws in order to accomplish its goal of preventing people from seeking asylum in the United States,” Rabinovitz said in a statement.

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