9th Circuit weighs whether to uphold injunction on Trump asylum policy

9th Circuit weighs whether to uphold injunction on Trump asylum policy
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The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday heard arguments over the Trump administration’s policy requiring some asylum seekers to stay in Mexico while their cases are under review.

The panel of three judges was unclear during the hearing as to whether they will uphold or strike down the preliminary injunction blocking the policy, which District Judge Richard Seeborg, an Obama appointee, issued earlier this month. The appeals court issued a stay on that injunction while it considers the Trump administration's appeal of Seeborg's ruling.

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The judges questioned Deputy Assistant Attorney General Scott Stewart about how the federal government determines which asylum applicants are subject to the policy — sometimes referred to as “Remain in Mexico” — and which are not.

Stewart said decisions about how to classify a migrant and which immigration proceedings migrants are subject to is up to the immigration official processing the migrant.

But some of the judges appeared to struggle with how the migrants are classified. Judge William Fletcher — a Clinton appointee — noted that the two categories described by the administration appeared to have significant overlap.

Fletcher and other judges questioned how migrants who are considered to be asylum seekers could also fall into a second category that encompasses all other migrants, including those alleged to be smugglers or accused of having committed drug-related offenses. Migrants who are put into each of those categories can face different immigration proceedings.

Fletcher, at one point, attempted to analogize the two categories of migrants as “dogs and cats that go to the pound.”

“Just because they’re both in the pound doesn’t turn a dog into a cat, or vice versa,” he said of the government's attempts to classify migrants who fall into one category, like asylum seekers, under the conditions that apply to the other.

At the same time, the panel pressed American Civil Liberties Union attorney Judy Rabinovitz over her argument that asylum seekers are in danger by being forced to wait in Mexico.

They noted that many asylum seekers come from Hispanic countries other than Mexico.

But Rabinovitz argued it’s not a case of whether the migrants are in “more danger,” but if they’re facing a dangerous scenario at all.

It’s unclear when the judges will issue a decision on the preliminary injunction.

Their order will be the latest move in the narrative surrounding the Trump administration's asylum policies, as officials say they are facing a crisis at the southern border.

Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrMatthew Shepard's parents blast Barr's LGBTQ record in anniversary of hate crime law Trump denies knowledge of Barr meeting in Italy, says it would be appropriate Mulvaney helped organize controversial Ukraine meeting MORE earlier this month also unveiled an order that requires undocumented immigrants appearing before an immigration judge be subject to indefinite detention. That order will go into effect within 60 days of Barr's announcement.