LOS ANGELES: A federal appeals court blocked a key asylum policy of Donald Trump’s administration which has forced many applicants to wait in Mexico while their claims are processed, delivering a blow to the US president’s signature crackdown on migration at the southern border.
The policy, known as “Remain in Mexico,” has been used to send tens of thousands of asylum seekers from Central America back to Mexico, but was placed on hold by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.
The court ruled that the policy “is invalid in its entirety” under US law concerning migrant rights and UN refugee protocols, and should be blocked “in its entirety’’. The White House blasted the ruling, warning it could “flood the nation’s immigration system” and “present unchecked coronavirus entry risk’’. The San Francisco court had originally allowed the policy to go ahead last year, pending the appeal, overruling a district judge who had ruled against the measure.
The district judge had heard evidence that migrants returned to Mexico under the policy faced discrimination, physical violence, sexual assault, corruption and lack of food and shelter.
Over 60,000 people have been returned to Mexico under the programme since it was introduced in January 2019, according to the White House.
The American Civil Liberties Union, one of the groups that challenged the policy in court, welcomed the ruling.
“The court forcefully rejected the Trump administration’s assertion that it could strand asylum seekers in Mexico and subject them to grave danger,” said attorney Judy Rabinovitz in a statement.
“It’s time for the administration to follow the law and stop putting asylum seekers in harm’s way. The policy is facially and flatly illegal,” tweeted Harvard Law School constitutional scholar Laurence Tribe.
But a Department of Justice spokesman said the Trump administration had “acted faithfully” and slammed the ruling which “highlights the consequences and impropriety of nationwide injunctions’’.
The court’s decision “not only ignores the Constitutional authority of Congress and the administration for a policy in effect for over a year, but also extends relief beyond the parties before the court’’. — AFP