A federal judge blocked the Trump administration from requiring asylum-seekers to return to Mexico as they await court hearings in the U.S., but the judge delayed implementing his ruling to give the government time to appeal, NPR reports. U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg in San Francisco said that current law does not authorize the Department of Homeland Security to enact the Migrant Protection Protocols announced in December by outgoing Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen. Seeborg wrote that the protocols lacked sufficient safeguards for ensuring that people who want to apply for asylum are not returned “to places where they face undue risk to their lives or freedom.”
The ruling came in a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and other advocacy groups on behalf of 11 Central American asylum-seekers. It argued that requiring the migrants to wait in Mexico violated humanitarian protections offered under U.S. and international law. “The court strongly rejected the Trump administration’s unprecedented and illegal policy of forcing asylum seekers to return to Mexico without hearing their claims,” said the ACLU’s Judy Rabinovitz. “Try as it may, the Trump administration cannot simply ignore our laws in order to accomplish its goal of preventing people from seeking asylum in the United States.” The ruling is a setback for the Trump administration’s which says its hardline immigration policies are an appropriate response to a crisis at the border. The administration had hoped that the asylum protocols, dubbed by some officials as Remain in Mexico, would discourage migrants from seeking refuge in the U.S. Last week, Nielsen ordered Customs and Border Protection to “immediately expand” enforcement of the protocols beyond the roll out at San Ysidro and Calexico, Ca., and El Paso, Tx., to the entire 2,000-mile border.