Judge halts Trump policy requiring asylum seekers stay in Mexico

A federal judge issued a preliminary injunction Monday to stop the Trump administration’s policy of having some asylum seekers wait in Mexico while their case is under consideration.

District Judge Richard Seeborg wrote in his ruling that while it’s unclear how much risk asylum seekers are facing under the policy, “there is no real question that it includes the possibility of irreparable injury.”

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The ruling will go into effect on Friday.

Outgoing Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenElection security bills face GOP buzzsaw Five memorable moments from Sarah Sanders at the White House Trump admin program sends asylum-seekers to await claims in Mexico, despite fears of violence: report MORE announced late last year that the U.S. would force some asylum seekers to be sent to Mexico to wait out the duration of their immigration hearings.

The administration recently announced that it would begin to expand the policy, informally known as the "Remain in Mexico" program.

The ruling is the latest blow to the Trump administration’s immigration policies.

Another federal judge on Friday had ruled against the administration’s policies on detaining asylum seekers while they awaited their appearances before an immigration judge, ordering that the asylum seekers be granted an immigration hearing within seven days of their request or be released.

And Trump is currently facing several legal challenges over his attempts to build a wall on the southern border after he declared a national emergency to divert federal funds for the wall’s construction.

Monday’s injunction was issued as part of a lawsuit filed on behalf of asylum seekers who claim the policy puts them in danger.

“Remain in Mexico leaves individuals and families fleeing persecution stranded on the other side of the border, when what they need and deserve under our laws is protection in America,” Archi Pyati, chief of policy for the Tahirih Justice Center, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, said in a statement. 

“This policy goes against basic tenets of fairness, and makes it all but impossible for us to do our jobs. We are glad to see justice served.”

A Department of Homeland Security (DHS) spokesperson did not immediately return The Hill's request for comment.

Seeborg, who was nominated by President Obama, wrote in his ruling Monday that the asylum seekers have “presented uncontested evidence that they fled their homes in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras to escape extreme violence, including rape and death threats.”

He also wrote that “they have continued to experience physical and verbal assaults, and live in fear of future violence, in Mexico.”

He said DHS did not sufficiently prove that the asylum seekers “had sufficient opportunity to assert any legitimate fears of return to Mexico,” as the agency had claimed in court.

Judy Rabinovitz, deputy director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Immigrants’ Rights Project — one of the plaintiffs in the case — said in a statement that the ruling shows that “the Trump administration cannot simply ignore our laws in order to accomplish its goal of preventing people from seeking asylum in the United States.”

-- Updated at 6:30 p.m.