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Trump's 'Remain in Mexico' Asylum Policy Was Just Blocked by a Federal Court

Advocates contend it left vulnerable groups — including folks who are LGBTQ or pregnant — living in unsafe, overcrowded encampments.

by Carter Sherman
Feb 28 2020, 9:43pm

The Trump administration’s year-old immigration policy that forced people to stay in Mexico while their asylum cases played out in the United States was blocked by a federal court in California on Friday.

Almost 60,000 asylum-seekers from across Latin America have been stranded on the Mexican side of the United States’ southern border for months, often in dire and dangerous conditions, as part of the administration’s controversial “Remain in Mexico” policy established in January 2019. (The policy is also known as the Migrant Protection Protocols.) The Trump administration wants people to remain there as their immigration proceedings unfold, but advocates contend that the policy left vulnerable groups — including folks who are LGBTQ or pregnant — living in unsafe, overcrowded encampments.

The ACLU slammed the policy for creating what it called a “humanitarian crisis at the border.” In December 2019, Human Rights First found that there have been at least 636 publicly reported cases of violent attacks — including kidnapping, rape, and torture — committed against asylum seekers and people who were pushed to Mexico through the “Remain in Mexico” policy.

“The court forcefully rejected the Trump administration’s assertion that it could strand asylum seekers in Mexico and subject them to grave danger,” ACLU attorney Judy Rabinovitz, who argued the case in front of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, said in a statement. “It’s time for the administration to follow the law and stop putting asylum-seekers in harm’s way.”

In its 2-1 decision, which upheld a lower court’s block on the “Remain in Mexico” policy, the 9th Circuit ruled that the policy is inconsistent with federal law. People asking for asylum are supposed to be able to remain in the United States, even if they’re not documented. The U.S. government is also supposedly barred from deporting people to a country if they could face persecution there.

The Trump administration is expected to ask the Supreme Court to reverse the 9th Circuit’s ruling on the policy, which officials credit for helping curb the flow of migrants into the United States. Immigration advocates are now scrambling to get migrants who’ve been staying near the border to cross it, so they can potentially meet with a U.S. immigration judge.

Cover: In this Nov. 5, 2019, photo, migrants live in a refugee camp in Matamoros, Mexico. The camp is an outgrowth of the Trump administration’s “Remain in Mexico” policy, in which more than 55,000 migrants have been told to wait and pursue their cases south of the border. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

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Remain in Mexico