But some of the court’s judges were more than a little skeptical of the administration’s policy.
A federal appeals court has ruled that the Trump administration can continue sending asylum-seekers back to Mexico as their applications are processed and hearing dates set.
While immigration advocates have already begun preparing challenges, the Huffington Post notes the policy will at least temporarily remain in effect.
Now, the administration is portraying the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling as a victory for its ‘Remain in Mexico’ plan. It also topples an earlier judgment against the plan, which is officially known as the Migrant Protection Protocols.
Just last month, another 9th Circuit judge had issued an injunction against the protocols, citing their potential illegality. In that decision, Judge Richard Seeborg found that the government had failed to “answer the question of whether the MPP includes sufficient safeguards against refoulement.”
And refoulement—the return of refugees and asylum-seekers to countries and places they’re likely to be persecuted—has been a key concern of immigration advocates as they’ve sued the federal government. Many have argued that Mexico isn’t a wholly safe place, especially for people fleeing organized crime and gang violence in Central America.
Big Court win at our Southern Border! We are getting there – and Wall is being built!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 8, 2019
However, the appeals panel’s reversal means that the Migrant Protection Protocols can be reapplied, at least until the judicial system can work through pending litigation.
In the past, it’s been common to allow asylum-seekers to stay in the United States—either in controlled detention facilities or on supervised release—while awaiting the determination of their cases.
Pacific Standard spoke to some attorneys practicing along the border or otherwise working with migrants. Several said that contemporary policy is so rapidly changing it’s difficult to prepare.
“In a world in which policies and procedures are constantly changing, it’s hard to anticipate what the government is going to do next, and how things are going to change in the future,” Morgan Weibel, a San Francisco-based asylum attorney, told Pacific Standard.
Other advocates lamented that their clients may face heightened danger in Mexico.
“It’s a disappointment for sure,” Institute for Women in Migration attorney Anna Joseph told The Huffington Post. “It will mean that a lot of people spend time in Mexico in dangerous and vulnerable situations, suffering in a variety of ways.”
For the Trump administration, the Migrant Protection Protocols are meant to combat what’s perceived as rampant abuses of U.S. immigration law and asylum processes.
“This endemic abuse of the asylum system makes a mockery of our immigration system,” Trump said in 2018.
And President Trump has had plenty of reason to lash out against the 9th Circuit, which has stayed and reversed some of his biggest executive actions. After the court pushed back against his travel ban and DACA limitations, Trump even threatened to disband it.
However, the commander-in-chief was publicly appreciative of Wednesday’s ruling. In celebration, Trump tweeted, “Big Court win at our Southern Border! We are getting there – and Wall is being built!”
Nevertheless, the 9th Circuit panel wasn’t wholly supportive. Judge William A. Fletcher issued a sharply critical opinion in which he voiced his “regret that [his] colleagues on the motions panel have uncritically accepted the Government’s arguments.”
“The government is wrong,” Fletcher wrote. “Not just arguably wrong, but clearly and flagrantly wrong.”
In a separate response, Omar Jadwat, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, pointed to the skepticism as evidence that ‘Remain’ might have a short shelf-life.
“There is good reason to believe that ultimately this policy will be put to a halt,” Jadwat wrote.