US asylum officers ask federal court to end Trump 'Remain in Mexico' policy citing threat to migrants' lives

The asylum officers tasked with implementing a Trump administration policy that forces migrants seeking asylum to wait in Mexico until their requests are processed are now urging a U.S. appeals court to block it. 

The officers said in a brief Wednesday that the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) measure, also known as the “Remain in Mexico” policy, abandons the country’s longstanding tradition “of providing a safe haven to the persecuted and violates our international and domestic legal obligations.” 

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“Moreover, the MPP is entirely unnecessary, as our immigration system has the foundation and agility necessary to deal with the flow of migrants through our Southern Border,” they continued. “The system has been tested time and again, and it is fully capable — with additional resources where appropriate — of efficiently processing asylum claims by those with valid claims while removing those that are not entitled to protection after they undergo the process designed to ensure that they will not be returned to a place where they will be persecuted.” 

“The MPP, contrary to the administration’s claim, does nothing to streamline the process, but instead increases the burdens on our immigration courts and makes the system more inefficient,” they continued, while also blasting the policy’s directives as “fundamentally contrary to the moral fabric of our nation and our international and domestic legal obligations.”

“Asylum officers are duty bound to protect vulnerable asylum seekers from persecution,” the officers said. “However, under the MPP, they face a conflict between the directives of their departmental leaders to follow the MPP and adherence to our nation’s legal commitment to not returning the persecuted to a territory where they will face persecution.” 

Under the policy, which was implemented in January, asylum seekers are required to establish a “reasonable fear” of persecution or torture in Mexico in order to be able to stay in U.S. custody as their requests are processed. But prior to the policy’s implementation, migrants seeking asylum were able to remain in U.S. custody while their asylum requests were being reviewed.

Earlier this year, a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction to block the Trump administration from implementing the policy in April. At the time, District Judge Richard Seeborg wrote in his ruling that the policy “lacks sufficient protections against aliens being returned to places where they face undue risk to their lives or freedom."

The Trump administration was able to continue with the policy a month later, however, after the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals blocked the judge’s order from taking effect shortly after.