On Friday, the San Francisco based 9th Circuit Court of Appeals blocked the Trump administration’s ‘remain in Mexico’ policy, and basically approved continued use of the ‘catch and release’ destruction that allows criminal invaders to come into the country illegally.
After the decision, it apparently emboldened a group of “unruly” migrants who tried to swarm into the U.S. using invasion tactics, which forced the Border Patrol to close a bridge.
A federal appeals court on Friday slapped a temporary halt on the Remain-in-Mexico policy — one of the most effective Trump administration policies in halting last year’s migrant crisis — dealing a significant blow to the administration’s efforts to control the flow of migrants claiming asylum at the southern border.
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled in a 2-1 vote to put a hold on the policy — formally known as the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP). In a separate ruling Friday, the same court also blocked an administration policy that prevents immigrants who crossed the border illegally from then claiming asylum in the U.S.
The policy, which was established in January and expanded over the summer amid greater cooperation with Mexico, returns migrants to Mexico as they await their hearings, with courtrooms set up at key border points in places such as Laredo and Brownsville, Texas. Approximately 57,000 people have been returned to Mexico under the policy.
The policy essentially ended the process known as “catch-and-release” by which migrants were released into the interior, sometimes for years, until their cases were processed. While critics said MPP was cruel and placed migrants in danger of violence by returning them to the country, it was identified as ending a key “pull factor” in why migrants were flooding the border — namely that they would be allowed into the interior of the U.S. if they reached the border.
Officials said the process meant that cases could be heard in as little as 40-60 days, as opposed to the years it sometimes takes after family units are released into the U.S. Those in favor of the program said that works better for the migrants, as it leaves them in limbo for less time, while also acting as a disincentive for Central American migrants who do not have legitimate asylum claims but might otherwise get into the U.S. by claiming “credible fear” of returning home.
Since MPP was expanded, there has been a dramatic drop in migrants coming to the border from the high of April where 144,000 migrants reached the border. Officials have repeatedly said the policy, along with other international agreements with Central American countries, has been a significant factor in that reduction.
“The importance of MPP can’t be stated enough, it is what’s allowed us to take control of the crisis that we saw in April and May. The idea is to make sure we process individuals in a timely manner but make sure they wait south of the border,” Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf told Fox News in November.
Wolf warned then that a ruling by the Ninth Circuit could have a dire effect on the U.S. effort to regain control of its southern border, and hurt efforts of law enforcement on the ground trying to enforce the law.
“So you get an adverse ruling on MPP and it’s going to make the job of the men and women of Border Patrol as well as [Customs and Border Protection] and [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] … very difficult for them, so it really can’t be overstated how much the program means to the department in controlling the crisis,” he said.
The court sided with arguments from pro-immigration and liberal groups that the government has not done enough to ensure migrants are not returned to somewhere they may face persecution. It accepted the claim that “non-Mexicans returned to Mexico under the MPP risk substantial harm, even death, while they await adjudication of their applications for asylum.”
U.S. authorities said they closed the busy Ciudad Juarez-El Paso border bridge on Friday after more than a hundred mostly Cuban migrants tried to cross in response to a court ruling suspending an asylum policy.
CBP confirmed on its Twitter account that it had closed the Paso Del Norte Bridge to stop a group of migrants from illegally and forcefully entering the United States and that other ports stayed open.
Later on Friday, the Trump administration said in an emergency motion that at least 25,000 migrants sent back through the program were still in Mexico and that halting the program “could prompt a rush on the southern border”.
In response, the appeals court put its ruling on hold to allow the administration to petition the U.S. Supreme Court to take up the issue.
“It’s time for everyone to start going home, no one is going to cross tonight,” said Enrique Valenzuela, head of the population council of the Chihuahua state government, whose is among those in charge of handling migrants at the border.
“The suspension has been suspended, MPP is back,” he told migrants as he walked through the crowd at the base of the bridge.
Even though some migrants left, dozens were still present when CBP tweeted the bridge would remain closed overnight.