WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court agreed Monday to decide the fate of a Trump administration policy that forces migrants seeking asylum to remain in Mexico while their applications are pending.
The decision to hear the case is a victory for the Department of Homeland Security, because the policy has twice been declared illegal by lower federal courts. Even so, those rulings have been put on hold, and it has been in effect since January 2019.
Attorneys for those challenging the policy say it endangers thousands of Central Americans traveling through Mexico to reach the United States by subjecting them to potential harm at the hands of Central American gangs, Mexican cartels and corrupt government officials.
“Asylum-seekers face grave danger every day this illegal and depraved policy is in effect,” said Judy Rabinovitz, lead counsel in the lawsuit for the American Civil Liberties Union.
But the Supreme Court in March let the policy remain in effect while deciding whether to hear an appeal from the Justice Department, which warned that many of the more than 25,000 asylum-seekers sent to Mexico would rush into the United States if a lower court’s injunction was allowed to take effect.
The actions, known as Migrant Protection Protocols, represent one of several administration efforts to reduce the number of asylum-seekers entering the country. Trump has cut back and, at times, completely suspended the refugee and asylum systems that allow those fleeing war, violence or persecution to seek safe haven.
The asylum policy is one of several issues being fought out in the courts that could become moot if Democrat Joe Biden wins next month’s election and is inaugurated in January. The case is unlikely to be scheduled for argument at the high court before February.
The Department of Homeland Security implemented the policy along the borders of California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas to deter asylum-seekers from crossing the southern border. Applicants have been sent back to seven Mexican border cities, from Tijuana to Matamoros.
In February, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled that the policy violates federal immigration law, which allows asylum-seekers who have expressed “credible fear” of persecution to remain in the United States.
Under the policy, asylum-seekers may come back to the United States only to appear for their court hearings. Immigration officials are instructed not to ask asylum-seekers whether they fear returning to Mexico.
The policy “has had serious adverse consequences” to asylum-seekers who have shown proof that they faced discrimination, sexual and physical violence, corrupt law enforcement, hunger and homelessness after returning to Mexico, appeals court Judge William Fletcher wrote.
The Supreme Court likely will hear the case early next year and decide the policy’s fate by June.
Source: USA TODAY
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