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Federal Court Blocks ‘Remain in Mexico’ Policy in California, Arizona

A member of Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Removal Operations Fugitive Operations teams is pictured during an operation in San Jose, Calif., September 25, 2019. (Kate Munsch/Reuters)

A federal appeals court said Wednesday it will block the Trump administration from requiring migrants to wait in Mexico as their asylum claims are being adjudicated, barring intervention by the Supreme Court.

Starting next week, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco will block the administration from enforcing the controversial “Remain in Mexico” policy in Arizona and California past March 12, unless the Supreme Court intervenes before then.

The “Migrant Protection Protocols,” introduced in January of last year, has resulted in about 60,000 asylum-seekers being made to wait in Mexico as their cases make their way slowly through the overwhelmed U.S. immigration courts.

The appeals court previously blocked the policy on the entire U.S.-Mexico border on Friday but later nixed that order after the White House pushed back, warning of consequences. The judges admitted that issuing an order applying to parts of the country outside the court’s jurisdiction, in this case the borders of New Mexico and Texas, are “a matter of intense and active controversy.”

The court cited “the extreme danger to asylum seekers who are returned to Mexico,” noting that it is illegal to send migrants to places where they will be persecuted for their race, religion, nationality, politics, or for being part of a certain social group.

The Justice Department warned in a court document of “massive disruption to the government’s immigration operations and sudden confusion for thousands of migrants about their ability to enter the United States.”

“If the administration had any respect for the law or any sense of decency, it would end this program immediately,” said Judy Rabinovitz, special counsel for the Immigrants’ Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union, one of the groups fighting the policy. “We will continue working to permanently end this illegal and inhumane policy.”

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