A federal appeals court on Friday temporarily halted a ruling that would have stopped the Trump administration from forcing asylum-seekers to wait in Mexico as they wait for immigration courts to hear their cases.
The decision by the three-judge panel on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals blocked a lower ruling from taking effect and gave civil liberties groups until Tuesday to submit arguments on why the asylum policy should be put on hold. The government has until Wednesday to argue why it should remain in place.
On Monday, a federal judge halted the change to the asylum system, saying it violated U.S. law by failing to evaluate the dangers to migrants while in Mexico. The suit was filed by 11 Central American asylum-seekers and advocacy groups who argue forcing asylum-seekers to wait in Mexico puts migrants risk given the uptick in violence there.
Thousands have fled Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador in recent months amid growing gang violence and abject poverty in the region. The ruling comes as more than 2,000 migrants made their way through Mexico on Friday, hoping to reach the U.S.-Mexico border. Mexican authorities said around 350 migrants broke the locks on a gate at the Guatemalan border Friday and forced their way into the country.
The government is asking the 9th Circuit to keep the asylum policy while the lawsuit makes its way through the courts. It argued halting it would endanger the public.
Families seeking asylum are typically released in the U.S. with notices to appear in court. The new policy began in January at the nation’s busiest border crossing in San Diego. More than 1,300 asylum-seekers have been to Mexico so far, according to the Mexican government.
“I haven’t heard of anyone who’s been sent back since the judge’s order on Monday,” American Civil Liberties Union attorney Judy Rabinovitz said.
The Trump administration has said its stance on asylum is a response to a shortage of detention space for migrants and overwhelmed immigration officials as more migrants appear at the border each day.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.