Judge Blocks Trump Policy That Forces Asylum Seekers to Wait in Mexico

“Remain in Mexico” was the administration’s main way of deterring asylum seekers.

Ariel, a Honduran asylum-seeker, hugs an attorney before entering the United States in March to begin his asylum case after being returned to Mexico.Gregory Bull/AP

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A federal judge is blocking the Trump administration’s policy of forcing asylum seekers to wait in Mexico for their US court dates. The move will, at least temporarily, end the Trump administration’s most important policy for deterring Central American families from requesting protecting under US asylum laws. 

The preliminary injunction was issued by San Francisco district court judge Richard Seeborg. The administration’s policy, known as Remain in Mexico, was announced in December and went into effect in late January. It forces migrants to wait in dangerous border cities and makes it impossible for many of them to find lawyers.

Remain in Mexico was arguably Kirstjen Nielsen’s biggest achievement as homeland security secretary. President Donald Trump pushed Nielsen out on Sunday, and she will be replaced by Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan on Wednesday, two days before Seeborg’s injunction goes into effect.

“We’re thrilled that the judge agreed with our arguments and has blocked this heinous policy,” said Melissa Crow, an attorney with the Southern Poverty Law Center, which, along with the American Civil Liberties Union, represented the plaintiffs challenging the policy. “It’s a huge statement that he agreed with our arguments.

“Today’s victory is especially important amidst reports that the Trump administration is planning to move toward even more extreme immigration policies,” she added. “The decision will prevent incredibly vulnerable individuals from being trapped in dangerous conditions in Mexico, but it’s only a step in a much larger fight.”

Seeborg’s order is below:

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You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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