Groups seek restraining order to block Trump asylum policy

Posted at 10:05 PM, Feb 20, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-20 22:05:16-05

A coalition of immigrant advocacy groups is asking a federal judge for a restraining order that would block the Trump administration from forcing asylum seekers to stay in Mexico while their cases make their way through US immigration courts.

In a motion filed Wednesday, advocates argued that the administration’s new policy — which officials started rolling out in Tijuana last month — causes irreparable harm and places vulnerable asylum seekers’ lives at risk.

Asylum seekers, the organizations said in court documents, “are being returned to Mexico without any meaningful consideration of the dangers they face there, including the very real threat that Mexican authorities will return them to the countries they fled to escape persecution and torture.”

CNN has reached out to the Justice Department and Homeland Security Department for comment.

The filing is the latest step in a lawsuit the groups filed earlier this month in the Northern District of California. If US District Judge Richard Seeborg grants a temporary restraining order, officials would be required to halt the policy while the case makes its way through court.

“The President himself has, on numerous occasions, cited the dangerous situation on the other side of the U.S.-Mexico border,” Melissa Crow, senior supervising attorney with the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Immigrant Justice Project, said in a statement. “Every moment it is in place, lives are in danger.”

The administration has dubbed the policy “Migrant Protection Protocols” and has argued they “help restore a safe and orderly immigration process, decrease the number of those taking advantage of the immigration system, and the ability of smugglers and traffickers to prey on vulnerable populations, and reduce threats to life, national security, and public safety, while ensuring that vulnerable populations receive the protections they need.”

So far, the policy has been applied only to undocumented migrants who’ve sought asylum at the port of entry near San Diego, but officials have said they intend to expand it to other sites along the border.

As of last Thursday, 93 people had been processed and returned to Mexico under the policy, including 13 families, according to a Department of Homeland Security official, who said at the time that the number of people returned was likely to grow.

Organizations challenging the policy in the lawsuit include the Innovation Law Lab, the Central American Resource Center of Northern California, the Centro Legal de la Raza, the Immigration and Deportation Defense Clinic at the University of San Francisco School of Law, Al Otro Lado and the Tahirih Justice Center.

Eleven migrants who were returned to Mexico under the policy are also plaintiffs in the case.

Attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union, the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies are among the lawyers representing them.