Trump Administration Prepares to Return Asylum Seekers to Mexico Pending Court Ruling

President Donald Trump at Ellington Field Joint Reserve Base in Houston, Texas, April 10, 2019 (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

Trump administration officials, in response to a Friday court ruling, are poised to implement a policy that would require asylum seekers to remain in Mexico while their cases are being adjudicated.

A federal appeals court in California on Friday lifted an injunction that previously blocked the policy’s implementation.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) officials responded to the ruling by instructing staff to prepare to return asylum seekers to Mexico under a policy they refer to as “Migrant Protection Protocols” or “MPP,” according to internal emails obtained by the Los Angeles Times .

“This means that implementation of MPP may resume pending the ongoing litigation,” the memo reads. “In the meantime we have staff on standby for new referrals.”

Authorities have not yet begun returning migrants to Mexico, according to the Times.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which temporarily lifted the injunction Friday, is expected to issue a permanent ruling on whether the administration can reinstate the so-called Remain in Mexico policy.

Then-secretary of homeland security Kierstjen Nielsen first announced the policy in December and used it to successfully return 1,000 migrants to Mexico before it was blocked in court.

“The statute explicitly authorizing the use of the Migrant Protection Protocols has been on the books for more than two decades,” Alexei Woltornist, a Justice Department spokesman, told the Times. “And the Department of Justice will robustly defend our ability to use it.”

President Trump praised the Ninth Circuit’s ruling in a Friday tweet.

“Finally, great news at the border,” he wrote.

In the wake of Nielsen’s ouster earlier this month, Trump administration officials have reportedly considered a number of executive actions designed to transition away from a family-based immigration system toward one that is more meritocratic. The potential responses include tightening visa restrictions on countries whose nationals tend to overstay their visas as well as making it more difficult for the spouses of H-1B-visa holders to immigrate.

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