Immigration Law

Union for asylum officers files brief opposing remain-in-Mexico policy

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President Donald Trump’s remain-in-Mexico policy for asylum-seekers puts migrants in danger and violates U.S. and international law, according to an amicus brief filed by the union for asylum officers.

The union brief, filed Wednesday, told the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals at San Francisco that asylum officers “should not be forced to honor departmental directives that are fundamentally contrary to the moral fabric of our nation.” CBS News, the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Texas Tribune have coverage.

Under the policy that took effect in January, asylum-seekers who can show a credible fear of persecution upon return to their countries are sent to Mexico to await asylum proceedings. Previously, those who passed the credible fear interviews were allowed to remain in the United States.

The brief was filed by Local 1924 of the American Federation of Government Employees, which represents 2,500 Department of Homeland Security employees. It argues that vulnerable populations will face persecution in Mexico because of race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group.

Putting people at risk violates a duty not to return people to dangerous conditions that is required by international treaties and U.S. law implementing the obligations, the brief argues.

Under the new policy, known as the Migrant Protection Protocols, immigration officers do not ask asylum applicants from Central America whether they fear torture or persecution while waiting in Mexico. Immigration officers make inquiries only if an applicant affirmatively states that they fear returning to Mexico, the brief says.

The brief also says the policy “is entirely unnecessary, as our immigration system has the foundation and agility necessary to deal with the flow of migrants through our southern border.”

The acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Ken Cuccinelli, criticized the union brief on Twitter as “an attempt by the union to score short-term political points.”

The lawsuit challenging the policy was filed in San Francisco federal court in February. One of the issues in the case is whether a statute allowing the return of immigrants to a “contiguous territory” applies to the Central Americans challenging the policy.

In a decision last month, the 9th Circuit allowed the Trump administration to continue to enforce the policy while a lower court injunction is appealed.

Over approximately two weeks, the Trump administration has turned back about 5,000 people seeking asylum in ports of entry at San Diego; El Paso, Texas; and Calexico, Texas, according to figures from the Mexican government cited by CBS News. This brings the total number of migrants returned to Mexico to more than 15,000, according to figures by the Mexican government.

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