In a major blow to President Donald Trump’s immigration agenda, a federal appeals court ruled on Friday that migrants can’t be sent to Mexico to await their asylum decisions.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals halted the Trump administration’s Migrant Protection Protocols, also known as the “Remain in Mexico” program. In a 2-1 decision on Friday, the Ninth Circuit upheld a lower court’s ruling that the Immigration and Nationality Act forbids the government from sending asylum seekers over the U.S.-Mexico border.
The decision showcased a partisan divide among the court’s members, with the two Clinton-appointed judges — Richard Paez and William Fletcher — voting to uphold the injunction, while Judge Ferdinand Fernandez — a George H. W. Bush appointee — dissented to the ruling.
The decision serves a major setback for Trump’s border enforcement agenda. The “Remain in Mexico” program has been highlighted by the administration as the single most consequential immigration initiative, helping restore order in a region that was once deemed under a humanitarian crisis.
Launched in January 2019, Migrant Protection Protocols requires non-Mexican nationals who lodge asylum claims with the U.S. government to wait in Mexico until an immigration judge adjudicates their claims.
This initiative is intended to weed out fraud, with the idea that those filing frivolous claims are not going to wait months on end at the border before hearing a decision.
Since its inception, the “Remain in Mexico” program has expanded across most parts of the southern border and begun to include other non-Spanish speakers, sending tens of thousands of asylum seekers back to Mexico to await a decision by the U.S. immigration court system.
The program, administration leaders have long argued, has given relief to U.S. immigration officials.
However, many immigration-rights activists and other opponents argue it erodes migrants’ due process and places them in dangerous communities in Mexico.
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