The United States Supreme Court has allowed the administration of President Donald Trump to continue its “Remain in Mexico” policy while it considers whether or not to hear the case, in a decision seen as a win for the White House.
The justices on Wednesday stayed a Ninth Circuit Court ruling from two weeks ago that declared the policy illegal. Had the Supreme Court allowed the decision to remain, asylum seekers who crossed the border in Arizona and California would not have been subject to the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP).
Rights groups slammed the ruling.
“The Court of Appeals unequivocally declared this policy to be illegal. The Supreme Court should as well. Asylum seekers face grave danger and irreversible harm every day this depraved policy remains in effect,”
Judy Rabinovitz, special counsel in the American Civil Liberties Union’s (ACLU) Immigrants’ Rights Project, said in a statement after the ruling.
Under the policy, asylum seekers are briefly processed by US border agents and given a date to return for an immigration court hearing before being sent back across the southern border.
According to US Solicitor General Noel Francisco, the policy has allowed US border agents to send roughly 60,000 asylum seekers to Mexico to wait for their trial date since it was enacted in January 2019.
The ACLU has criticised the policy, saying these asylum seekers are often stranded in cities with high crime rates, where they face homelessness, kidnapping and sexual violence.
“Far from providing ‘protection’ for migrants and asylum seekers, MPP has exposed returnees to severe risk of violence and persecution”, the ACLU wrote in a report on the policy.
“Not surprisingly, many are choosing to abandon bona fide asylum claims. Instead, they are returning home to face certain danger rather than remaining in limbo in cities where they are unable to support themselves financially and are at risk of being preyed on by criminals.”
The Trump administration has repeatedly sent legal challenges to its immigration policies to the Supreme Court. Critics said the court often sides with the administration’s policies.
Legal proceedings against the policy began in April 2019. The Ninth Circuit Court decided on February 28 that a provision from a 1996 immigration law which allowed authorities to return migrants to “a foreign territory contiguous to the United States” was meant to apply to a small number of such migrants.
Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor would have denied the government’s application, the court said.