The Trump administration is reportedly preparing to return asylum seekers to Mexico while they await immigration hearings following a temporary lift on an injunction barring the administration from action.
Staff at the office of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) are preparing to enforce President Donald Trump’s “Remain in Mexico” policy, which returns asylum seekers to Mexico while they await a hearing. USCIS officials told staffers to ready themselves for reinforcement of the policy, according to emails obtained by the Los Angeles Times.
The “Remain in Mexico” policy is intended to help immigration officials who face a growing crisis at the border, according to administration officials. The policy has likely contributed to growing numbers of immigrants trying to cross the border illegally rather than through ports of entry, according to data from U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
The move comes after the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in California temporarily lifted on April 12 an injunction preventing the administration from enforcing the policy, the Times reported. The temporary lift followed San Francisco Judge Richard Seeborg’s April 8 order for the administration to halt the deportation of asylum seekers, according to The Associated Press.
The administration filed an emergency motion for a stay of a lower court ruling following Seeborg’s ruling, according to the Times. A Monday internal memo cited the court’s April 12 ruling in its announcement that it will move forward with the enforcement of its “Remain in Mexico” policy.
“This means that implementation of MPP may resume pending the ongoing litigation,” the memo reads, according to the Times. “In the meantime, we have staff on standby for new referrals.”
No asylum seekers have been returned to Mexico since the April 12 lift.
Two civil liberties groups sued the administration in February over its December 2018 policy sending foreign nationals seeking asylum in the U.S. back to Mexico while they await immigration hearings. The suit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Center for Gender & Refugee Studies on behalf of 11 asylum seekers. It alleges that the administration is violating immigrants’ rights to apply for asylum by making it very difficult to do so. The suit also claims that the administration is failing to recognized and address the violent conditions that are forcing migrants to seek asylum in the U.S., according to the groups.
The Trump administration says it is within the bounds of immigration law — under the 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act — to send migrants back to the country in which they last set foot while they await their case hearings, according to NBC. Prior to the policy, which took effect in San Diego in January, asylum seekers were released into the U.S. while awaiting their immigration hearings instead of being sent back to Mexico.
The appeals court will decide this week whether to extend the temporary lift on Seeborg’s injunction, according to the Times.
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