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Court Tentatively Blocks ‘Remain in Mexico’ Rule for Asylum Seekers

Migrants and others often face long lines and other delays at the U.S.-Mexico border in their quest to gain asylum in the United States. (JDenmark/Flickr)
Migrants and others often face long lines and other delays at the U.S.-Mexico border in their quest to gain asylum in the United States. (JDenmark/Flickr)
March 9, 2020

TUCSON, Ariz. -- Despite a ruling that could allow asylum seekers now waiting in Mexico into Arizona, social service agencies don't expect a huge influx across the border.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the Trump administration's "Remain in Mexico" policy, but only within its jurisdiction in Arizona and California. The policy forces asylum seekers to stay across the border until their court hearings.

Connie Phillips, president and CEO of Lutheran Social Services of the Southwest, said they are prepared to assist migrants entering Arizona and other states, and are expecting a manageable, "metered" flow of asylum seekers.

"There was a point when there was more than 1,000 people a week being released into central Phoenix. And those numbers now have dropped back to the more normal number of 100, 150, 200," Phillips said.

The Ninth Circuit's ruling will go into effect this Thursday, March 12, unless the U.S. Supreme Court agrees to review the lower court decision.

For the migrants, asylum is an uphill battle. A Syracuse University study found in 2019, only about 30% of applicants were ultimately granted asylum status.

Plaintiffs in the case tentatively agreed to an "orderly unwinding" of the decision, to avoid a massive surge of the 60,000 asylum seekers now in Mexico. Phillips added fewer may be admitted because U.S. officials have streamlined the hearings process.

"There's less chance of people being released to their sponsors because they're doing the assessment much more quickly," she said. "And so, it could be that they will never be released, they'll just simply be deported."

The Trump administration sent additional U.S. Army troops to border areas last week because of an initial rush to cross into the U.S. after the ruling. Human rights groups call the stay-in-Mexico policy "inhumane," forcing people to stay in unsafe refugee camps or on the streets as they wait weeks or months for a hearing.

Mark Richardson, Public News Service - AZ