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Judge temporarily blocks Trump administration from forcing asylum seekers to wait in Mexico

Update: On May 7, 2019, a federal appeals court ruled that the Trump administration can continue to force asylum seekers to return to Mexico and wait there for their hearings in immigration court.

A federal judge today ordered the Trump administration to immediately stop forcing asylum seekers to return to Mexico and wait there for their hearings in immigration court.

The order is the result of a motion by the SPLC and its co-counsel, which sought a preliminary injunction that would suspend the “Remain-in-Mexico” policy temporarily, while the case against the policy moves forward in court.

Today’s action marks the latest development in a lawsuit, Innovation Law Lab v. Nielson, that the SPLC filed in February to permanently stop the Trump administration from enforcing the policy.

“Today’s victory is especially important amidst reports that the Trump administration is planning to move toward even more extreme immigration policies,” said Melissa Crow, senior supervising attorney for the SPLC. “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. We are a nation of laws, and we cannot and will not allow elected officials to undermine those laws in an effort to implement an anti-immigrant agenda. We will keep fighting.”

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies joined the SPLC in filing the lawsuit and the motion for preliminary injunction.

The court agreed with the plaintiffs’ argument that the foreign contiguous territory provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act, which was the basis for the government’s forced return policy, was never intended to apply to asylum seekers who lack valid admission documents.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of 11 individual asylum seekers who were forcibly returned to Mexico, as well as the organizational plaintiffs 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. The organizations advocate on behalf of asylum seekers and other immigrants.

The SPLC is also actively fighting other unlawful immigration practices of the Trump administration, including those that target asylum seekers. The SPLC filed suit challenging the administration’s longstanding policy and practice of denying migrants access to the asylum process at ports of entry along the U.S.-Mexico border, which has played a large part in creating the current logjam at the border. The SPLC is also working with the ACLU to fight the asylum ban that has been blocked by a federal judge.

Photo by Gregory Bull/AP Images