WASHINGTON — A federal appeals court on Tuesday ruled in favor of President Donald Trump’s order that asylum seekers must wait in Mexico for immigration court hearings while the policy is challenged in court.
The ruling was declared a victory by the Trump administration in its ongoing battle to secure the United States’ southern border.
The surprise move by the appeal’s court reversed a decision by a San Francisco judge who previously ruled that asylum seekers could not be returned to Mexico as the challenged is adjudicated. The court has a prominent history of ruling against the president on such matters.
Attorneys for the American Civil Liberties Union had argued that returning asylum seekers to Mexico while the case is adjudicated put them at unnecessary risk. The ACLU, Southern Poverty Law Center and Center for Gender & Refugee Studies had each sued the Trump administration over the policy, calling the president’s order “unconstitutional”.
“Asylum seekers are being put at serious risk of harm every day that the forced return policy continues,” Omar Jadwat, director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, said of the policy.
However, in its ruling, the three-judge appeals court panel cited the Mexican government’s stance rejecting the argument that asylum seekers were at risk. The “likelihood of harm is reduced somewhat by the Mexican government’s commitment to honor its international law obligations and to grant humanitarian status and work permits to individuals returned under the (Migrant Protection Protocols)” the court said.
The administration has said it plans to rapidly expand the policy across the border as a result of the court’s ruling.
The U.S. has returned 3,267 Central American asylum seekers to date, Mexico’s immigration agency said Monday.
Calls for comment to the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies were not immediately returned.