Federal appeals court rules against Trump in two major immigration cases

Daniella Silva
Migrants, most of them asylum seekers sent back to Mexico from the U.S. under the "Remain in Mexico" program officially named Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), occupy a makeshift encampment in Matamoros, Tamaulipas, Mexico, October 28, 2019.
Loren Elliott | Reuters

A federal appeals court on Friday delivered two blows to the Trump administration's immigration policy, ruling against a program to force migrants seeking asylum to wait in Mexico and against a rule severely limiting the number of migrants who were eligible for asylum.

In a long-awaited decision, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated a block on the policy forcing migrants seeking asylum in the U.S. to wait in Mexico while their cases play out. The court also upheld a block on a rule seeking to bar asylum eligibility from migrants who cross the border between ports of entry.

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In the remain in Mexico case, the court said it concluded the policy, known formally as the Migrant Protection protocols, or MPP, "was invalid in its entirety" due to inconsistencies with the law.

"The court has finally affirmed what we always knew to be the case, that the provision on which the government is relying does not apply to asylum-seekers. Full stop," Melissa Crow, senior supervising attorney at the SPLC's Immigrant Justice Project, told NBC News.

In the other case, the court said it granted a preliminary injunction against a policy that "strips asylum eligibility from every migrant who crosses into the United States between designated ports of entry."

"Once again the courts have recognized there is tremendous danger facing asylum seekers along the entire southern border, and that the administration cannot unilaterally rewrite the laws," said American Civil Liberties Union attorney Lee Gelernt in a statement.

In the remain in Mexico case, about 60,000 migrants have been placed under the program since it began more than a year ago on the border separating Tijuana from San Diego.

In April, a federal judge temporarily blocked the policy — but just a month later, a court of appeals granted the Trump administration's request to allow the rule to take effect as the legal challenge plays out. In October, the appeals court heard arguments in the challenge to the policy.

In the asylum case, a district judge had issued a preliminary injunction in December 2018.

The Departments of Homeland Security and Justice did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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