Advocacy groups argue that the Trump administration is exposing migrants to potentially grave risks with its newly-implemented policy of sending asylum-seekers to Mexico while they wait for a hearing in United States courts—a program now being referred to as the Migration Protection Protocols.
In a motion filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies on Wednesday (February 20), the organizations argue that the policy causes "irreparable harm and places vulnerable asylum-seekers’ lives at risk," CNN reports. According to the court documents, plaintiffs are seeking a temporary restraining order (TRO) to immediately halt the administration’s new return policy on the grounds that asylum-seekers "are being returned to Mexico without any meaningful consideration of the dangers they face there, including the very real threat that Mexican authorities will return them to the countries they fled to escape persecution and torture."
Last week, Department of Justice spokesperson Steve Stafford released a statement to CNN about the lawsuit, saying, "Congress has explicitly authorized the Department of Homeland Security to return aliens arriving from a contiguous foreign territory to that territory during that alien’s immigration court proceedings." Stafford continued, "The Department of Justice will defend the Department of Homeland Security’s lawful actions in court."
As Colorlines previously reported, some migrants run the risk of "kidnapping or death" once they are deported to Mexican border cities. A report in Reuters points to the city of Reynosa in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas as an example of a border city where cartel members battle to the death over their stake in the lucrative drug game. The area is considered to be the "busiest crossing point along the northern Mexican border for migrants seeking asylum in the United States," and it’s also a place where civilians are often "caught in the crossfire."
According to CNN, if U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg agrees to grant the TRO, "officials would be required to halt the policy while the case makes its way through court." The news outlet says eleven migrants who were returned to Mexico after seeking asylum in the U.S. are also plaintiffs in the lawsuit. Judy Rabinovitz, the ACLU’s lead attorney in the case, told CNN, "None of them were asked if they have a fear in Mexico." She also stressed the urgent need to end the Migration Protection Protocols. “It’s got to be stopped," Rabinovitz said. "It’s illegal and inhuman, and hopefully that’s what the judge will do."