Court Blocks Trump’s “Remain in Mexico” Scheme

The policy has forced asylum seekers to wait in dangerous Mexican border towns while their cases progress.

Migrants families rest in a camp on the banks of the Rio Grande, at the border with the United States, in Matamoros, Mexico, on January 31. Abraham Pineda JáCome/ZUMA

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A federal appeals court blocked the Trump administration’s infamous “Remain in Mexico” policy Friday, putting an immediate stop to a scheme that has prevented asylum seekers from setting foot in the United States and reshaped the asylum process. 

On Friday, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court’s injunction against the system, officially called the Migrant Protection Protocols, finding that the policy “is invalid in its entirety.” The scheme has forced more than 60,000 people, mostly from Central America, to return to Mexican border cities after asking for asylum at the US-Mexico border and remain there as their cases move through immigration court in the United States.

Since it was first implemented in January 2019, human rights organizations have said this policy puts an already vulnerable population at higher risk, with hundreds of cases of kidnappings, extortion, rape, and murder reported among asylum seekers waiting in Mexico in the last year. 

“The court forcefully rejected the Trump administration’s assertion that it could strand asylum seekers in Mexico and subject them to grave danger,” says Judy Rabinovitz, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union. “It’s time for the administration to follow the law and stop putting asylum seekers in harm’s way.”

The case, Innovation Law Lab v. Wolf, was brought on behalf of 11 individual asylum seekers, with assistance from Innovation Law Lab, the Central American Resource Center of Northern California, Centro Legal de la Raza, the University of San Francisco School of Law Immigration and Deportation Defense Clinic, Al Otro Lado, and the Tahirih Justice Center.

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