The US has returned more than 1,600 migrants to Mexico to await immigration hearings, according to the Department of Homeland Security.
The individuals have been returned under the Migrant Protection Protocols policy, informally known as Remain in Mexico, that requires some asylum seekers to wait in Mexico until their immigration hearing.
It’s one of many policies that the Trump administration has deployed to stem the flow of migrants to the southern border, and like others, is being challenged in court.
This week, the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments in a case challenging the policy.
The three-judge panel – made up of two judges appointed by Democratic presidents and one appointed by a Republican – grappled with whether the policy should be allowed to continue, diving into technical matters and raising concerns about the process itself without providing much indication about where they stood overall.
The policy has drawn the ire of immigration advocates and lawyers who argue that it puts migrants who are predominantly from Northern Triangle countries and seeking asylum in the US in harm’s way.
Earlier this month, Judge Richard Seeborg of the Northern District of California blocked the policy. His reasoning was that the provision on which the government was relying was never intended to permit the return of asylum seekers to Mexico, and even if it did, the current screening procedures were not adequate, said Melissa Crow, senior supervising attorney at the Southern Poverty Law Center.
The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals, however, put the order on hold, allowing the policy to temporarily continue.
The so-called Migrant Protection Protocols program was initially rolled out at the San Ysidro port of entry in January. It’s since expanded to include Calexico port of entry, San Diego sector, Paso del Norte port of entry, El Paso sector and El Centro sector, according to DHS.