President Donald Trump’s administration just scored a huge legal win over Democrats — and the White House won in the ultra-liberal 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
The far-left federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that the Trump administration can make asylum seekers wait in Mexico for immigration court hearings while the policy is challenged in court, handing the president a major victory.
It’s also a victory for law and order, supporters say.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals — a frequent target of the president’s complaints — reversed a decision by a San Francisco judge that would have prevented asylum seekers from being returned to Mexico during the legal challenge.
The case could still end up at the Supreme Court. But allowing the policy to remain in effect in the meantime lets the administration carry out a critical change to U.S. asylum practices.
The administration has said it plans to rapidly expand the policy across the border, which would have far-reaching consequences for asylum seekers and Mexican border cities that host them while their cases wind through clogged U.S. immigration courts. Cases can take several years to decide.
The policy was challenged by illegal immigration advocacy groups that argued it jeopardized asylum seekers by forcing them to stay in Mexico, where crime and drug violence are prevalent.
U.S. District Court Judge Richard Seeborg agreed on April 8th and said the policy should be halted because it failed to evaluate the dangers migrants faced in Mexico.
But that decision has been halted.
The administration introduced its “Migrant Protection Protocols” policy on Jan. 29 in San Diego and later expanded it to Calexico, California, and El Paso, Texas. Under the policy, asylum seekers report to a border crossing in the morning. The U.S. government provides transportation to immigration court and returns them to the border after the hearing.
The U.S. has returned 3,267 Central American asylum seekers through three border cities, Mexico’s immigration agency said Monday.
The administration briefly halted the policy after Seeborg’s ruling but resumed on April 16, sending 673 people to Tijuana from San Diego since then, 298 to Mexicali from Calexico and 967 to Ciudad Juarez from El Paso.
The policy was introduced to deal with a growing number of illegal immigrants arriving at the U.S. border with Mexico with fraudulent families. Under a court order, children generally cannot be detained more than 20 days, which has led to widespread releases of families into the United States almost immediately after they are stopped by authorities.
The January launch followed months of delicate talks between senior U.S. and Mexican officials that culminated in dual announcements after a meeting in November in Houston. Both sides said the Trump administration forced Mexican officials to accept the hard bargain, even though they do not endorse the policy.
The three-judge appeals court panel cited Mexico’s position to reject the argument that asylum seekers were at risk.
The judges said the “likelihood of harm is reduced somewhat by the Mexican government’s commitment to honor its international law obligations and to grant humanitarian status and work permits to individuals returned under the (Migrant Protection Protocols).” In fact, Mexico said Dec. 20 that it would allow foreigners to apply for a work permit, not necessarily get one.
Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain, who was appointed by President Ronald Regan, offered the strongest backing for the administration’s position. Judges William Fletcher, an appointee of Bill Clinton, and Paul Watford, who was named by Barack Obama, were more critical.
The American Civil Liberties Union, Southern Poverty Law Center and Center for Gender & Refugee Studies were on the losing side of the ruling.
Justice and Homeland Security Department officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment late Tuesday
The Associated Press contributed to this article