Court won’t im­me­di­ately stop wait-in-Mex­ico asy­lum pol­icy

The Washington Post - - POLITICS & THE NATION - AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

san diego — A fed­eral ap­peals court put a judge’s or­der on hold Fri­day shortly be­fore it would have stopped the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion from forc­ing asy­lum seek­ers to wait in Mex­ico while their cases move through U.S. courts.

The U.S. Court of Ap­peals for the 9th Cir­cuit tem­po­rar­ily blocked the lower-court rul­ing from tak­ing ef­fect. The three­judge panel set a Tues­day dead­line for civil lib­er­ties groups to ar­gu­ments on why the asy­lum pol­icy should be on hold and a Wed­nes­day dead­line for the gov­ern­ment to ar­gue why it should re­main in place.

Judge Richard See­borg in San Fran­cisco ruled Mon­day to halt the un­prece­dented change to the U.S. asy­lum sys­tem while the groups’ law­suit moves for­ward. He said the pol­icy vi­o­lates U.S. law by fail­ing to eval­u­ate dan­gers mi­grants face in Mex­ico.

The gov­ern­ment called the rul­ing er­ro­neous and said it en­dan­gers the pub­lic dur­ing a hu­man -tar­ian cri­sis at the south­ern border. It wants the 9th Cir­cuit to keep the pol­icy in place while the law­suit is lit­i­gated, which is ex­pected to take months and pos­si­bly years.

Immigration at­tor­neys ar­gued that the pol­icy was putting the lives of asy­lum seek­ers at risk by forc­ing them to wait in vi­o­len­ce­plagued Mex­ico and said See­borg’s rul­ing was al­ready hav­ing an ef­fect.

Since the judge is­sued his or­der, immigration of­fi­cials stopped re­turn­ing asy­lum seek -ers south of the border af­ter they at­tended their hear­ings in the United States, lawyers said.

“I haven’t heard of any­one who’s been sent back since the judge’s or­der on Mon­day,” Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union at­tor­ney Judy Rabi­novitz said.

She added later that she was hope­ful See­borg’s rul­ing will go into ef­fect in the end.

The or­der marked an­other de­feat to Pres­i­dent Trump’s in­tent to rad­i­cally al­ter U.S. immigration poli­cies. Fam­i­lies seek­ing asy­lum typ­i­cally have been re­leased in the United States with no­tices to ap­pear in court.

The new pol­icy started in Jan­uary at the na­tion’s busiest border cross­ing in San Diego and the gov­ern­ment was start­ing to expand it.

At a Wed­nes­day hear­ing in El Paso, Ni­co­las Palazzo, an at­tor­ney for Las Amer­i­cas Im­mi­grant Ad­vo­cacy Cen­ter, told a judge that his Sal­vado­ran client feared re­turn­ing to Mex­ico. The man was al­lowed to re­main in the United States, sig­nal­ing a change in the prac­tice.

The Mex­i­can gov­ern­ment says more than 1,300 peo­ple were re­turned to Mex­ico un­der the pro­gram.

A law­suit by 11 Cen­tral Amer­i­cans and le­gal ad­vo­cacy groups ar­gues that the pol­icy puts the lives of asy­lum seek­ers at risk by forc­ing them to stay in Mex­ico, where crime and drug vi­o­lence are preva­lent.

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion says the pol­icy re­sponds to a cri­sis at the south­ern border that has over­whelmed the abil­ity of immigration of­fi­cials to de­tain mi­grants. Grow­ing num­bers of fam­i­lies are flee­ing poverty and gang vi­o­lence in Gu­atemala, Hon­duras and El Sal­vador.

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