A court of appeal in San Francisco suspended, Friday, February 28, the return to Mexico of migrants seeking asylum on American soil during the examination of their file, one of the pillars of the policy of the government of Donald Trump to close its border to the south. The court ruled on this practice "Not fully valid" under US law, ordering it to be stopped nationwide.
Announced in December 2018 and implemented a month later, the President's plan "Staying in Mexico" was strongly criticized on both sides of the border. This policy, officially called “Migrant protection protocols”, applied to all persons applying for asylum from Mexico but did not concern the Mexicans themselves.
Some 59,000 migrants, the vast majority of whom are fleeing poverty and violence in Central America, have been returned to Mexico under the scheme, according to official figures released Thursday.
At first instance last year, a federal court had also ruled on these illegal measures, worried about the lack of adequate reception structures in border areas on the Mexican side, as well as the discrimination and physical and sexual violence to which the returned migrants were exposed. The San Francisco Court of Appeal had, however, authorized the continuation of this plan while it rendered its decision.
ACLU rejoices, White House criticizes
The powerful American civil rights organization ACLU, a party to the legal proceedings, welcomed the suspension. "It is time for the government to obey the law and stop endangering asylum seekers", Judge Rabinovitz, a lawyer for the ACLU, said in a statement.
The White House, on the contrary, strongly criticized "A new dangerous injunction", and says that it is considering all the judicial options to have this decision reassessed. "If today's judgment is allowed to remain in force", "This will threaten to overwhelm the nation's migration system, pose risks of uncontrolled entry of the coronavirus, deeply damage our positive relationship with the Mexican government and our other regional partners, and rekindle the humanitarian and security crisis at the border", she said in a statement.
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice said that "The Trump government" had only exercised "Faithfully" prerogatives granted over twenty years ago by Parliament and "Ratified by President Clinton" at the time.
"A significant setback" for the Trump government
In a separate judgment, the same San Francisco Court of Appeal rejected another government measure preventing anyone who entered the United States illegally from seeking asylum there.
"These two decisions are a significant setback for the Trump administration's attempts to restrict asylum conditions", Stephen Yale-Loehr, a law professor at Cornell University, said in a statement. He believes that the Supreme Court will certainly be seized of these questions.