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Trump administration asylum policies to be heard in federal appeals court

Two of the Trump administration's asylum...

Posted: Oct 1, 2019 3:44 AM
Updated: Oct 1, 2019 3:52 AM

Two of the Trump administration's asylum policies will be heard before a federal appeals court Tuesday.

The policies are part of a concerted effort by the administration to tighten asylum and curb migration to the US-Mexico border. Over the summer, a crush of migrants at the border overwhelmed US Customs and Border Protection. In May, for example, Border Patrol arrested more than 132,000 migrants, many of whom were families, according to Customs and Border Protection data.

Administration officials have argued that the nation's immigration court system is bogged down amid an uptick in asylum claims and that asylum restrictions are intended to provide a reprieve. But immigrant advocacy groups have pushed back, saying the policies put migrants in harm's way.

The arguments before the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals come on the heels of two rulings Friday that halted moves by the administration to hold families in detention indefinitely and to expand a procedure to speed up deportations for some undocumented immigrants.

At issue Tuesday is a policy that requires some migrants to wait in Mexico for the duration of their immigration proceedings, as well as a policy barring migrants who illegally crossed the border from seeking asylum.

Of the two, the former, known as the Migrant Protection Protocols program, has been allowed to proceed. In February, a coalition of immigrant advocacy groups asked a federal judge for a restraining order that would block the policy. Eleven migrants who are seeking asylum in the United States and were returned to Mexico under the policy are plaintiffs in the case. Three plaintiffs have been granted asylum, according to Lisa Knox, an immigration attorney who represented two of the plaintiffs.

While the policy was initially blocked by a federal judge in California, the 9th Circuit in May granted the administration's request to implement the policy pending appeal.

The judges, though split on some issues, listed a number of factors that went into the decision, including risk of injury in Mexico and negotiations between the US and Mexico.

"The plaintiffs fear substantial injury upon return to Mexico, but 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 policy, the opinion read.

"We are hesitant to disturb this compromise amid ongoing diplomatic negotiations between the United States and Mexico because, as we have explained, the preliminary injunction (at least in its present form) is unlikely to be sustained on appeal."

Since then, the program has gradually expanded. Around 42,000 migrants have been sent back to Mexico under the Migrant Protection Protocols program, and additional locations along the southern border have implemented the policy. Most recently, tent courts were erected in Laredo and Brownsville, Texas, to hear these cases.

The other policy before the 9th Circuit on Tuesday would temporarily bar migrants who illegally cross into the US from the southern border from seeking asylum outside of official ports of entry.

Late last year, a federal judge in California blocked Trump's asylum ban and the Supreme Court later upheld the judge's order. Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the four liberal justices in the ruling.

The Supreme Court also recently weighed in on a separate asylum policy that dramatically limits the ability of Central American migrants to claim asylum. The court cleared the way for the rule to take effect.

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