A federal appeals court on Friday delivered two blows to the Trump administration’s immigration policy, ruling against a program to force migrants seeking asylum to wait in Mexico and against a rule severely limiting the number of migrants who were eligible for asylum.
Hours later, however, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals paused its ruling after government lawyers argued it would imperil communities along the border as an estimated 25,000 asylum seekers who were encouraged to stay in Mexico got the green light to come north and argue their cases.
The court’s suspension of its own ruling came as Chad Wolf, the acting Homeland Security secretary, said he was working with the Justice Department to appeal the earlier ruling Friday “expeditiously.”
That 2-1 decision was to reinstate a block on the policy forcing migrants seeking asylum in the U.S. to wait in Mexico while their cases play out. The court also ruled in a separate, 3-0 decision, to uphold a block on a rule seeking to bar asylum eligibility for migrants who cross the border between ports of entry.
In the remain-in-Mexico case, the court said it concluded that the policy, known formally as the Migrant Protection protocols, or MPP, “was invalid in its entirety” due to inconsistencies with the law and should be “enjoined in its entirety.”
“The court has finally affirmed what we always knew to be the case, that the provision on which the government is relying does not apply to asylum-seekers. Full stop,” Melissa Crow, senior supervising attorney at the SPLC’s Immigrant Justice Project, told NBC News.
In the other case, the court said it upheld an injunction against a policy that “strips asylum eligibility from every migrant who crosses into the United States between designated ports of entry.”
“Once again the courts have recognized there is tremendous danger facing asylum seekers along the entire southern border, and that the administration cannot unilaterally rewrite the laws,” said American Civil Liberties Union attorney Lee Gelernt in a statement
About 60,000 migrants have been placed under the remain-in-Mexico program since it began more than a year ago on the border separating Tijuana from San Diego.