Controversial “Remain in Mexico” policy will be allowed to continue

A panel of federal judges decided Tuesday to allow the government to continue the controversial Trump administration policy that requires immigrants to stay in Mexico while they await immigration court hearings. The government will be allowed to continue the practice until the court has made a final ruling.

At least 3,200 asylum seekers have been subject to “Remain in Mexico” — or, as it’s officially named “Migrant Protection Protocols” — since it was implemented in late January, an immigration official told CBS News. A group of immigration advocates — including the American Civil Liberties Union and the Southern Poverty Law Center — officially challenged the policy in February, filing a lawsuit against former Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and her department.

A federal judge last month ordered the program be temporarily halted, saying that officials had not sufficiently considered the dangers that immigrants might face in Mexico. In their argument against the program, the plaintiffs claimed the program is in violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act, the Administrative Procedures Act and various international human rights laws.

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But that injunction was reversed in February when the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals granted the government’s request for an emergency stay, meaning that immigration officers on the border could resume the program. That decision, and Tuesday evening’s,  was a rare victory Mr. Trump has found at the California court.

Migrants seeking asylum in the U.S. may have to wait in Mexico for months

Per Tuesday evening’s ruling, the policy will continue until a final decision is made in the case.

Prior to “Remain in Mexico,” asylum seekers had been allowed to live in the United States while wearing an ankle monitor as they waited for immigration court dates.

Under the new plan, some individuals and family units seeking asylum along the Southern Border are processed by immigration officials and then returned to Mexico to wait for their immigration court date. They receive an 800-number to check the status of their case, as well as a return date for when their asylum claim will be processed. On a call with reporters last month, a DHS official said that access to legal counsel has not been impacted due to the policy.

When the policy was announced in December, Nielsen said the policy was meant to address concerns that asylum seekers fail to show up for their immigration hearings.

“Aliens trying to game the system to get into our country illegally will no longer be able to disappear into the United States, where many skip their court dates,” wrote Nielsen in December. “Instead, they will wait for an immigration court decision while they are in Mexico. ‘Catch and release’ will be replaced with ‘catch and return.'”

But Department of Justice data shows 89 percent of asylum seekers were present for their court hearings in fiscal year 2017.

In more recent weeks, the administration has shifted course, saying the “Remain in Mexico” is designed to ease the surge of migrants arriving at the Southern Border. In March, more than 103,000 migrants were apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border, according to data from U.S. Customs and Border Patrol. By not allowing migrants to wait out their immigration court hearings in the U.S., some may be deterred by making the journey in the first place.

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