Immigrant Rights Groups Sue Over Asylum Policy

Published: Thursday, February 14, 2019 - 5:44pm
Updated: Friday, February 15, 2019 - 8:30am
Audio icon Download mp3 (1.48 MB)

Immigrant rights groups want a federal judge to declare illegal the government’s policy of making some asylum seekers wait in Mexico while their court case goes forward in the United States.

A lawsuit filed Thursday seeks to stop the practice, formally called Migrant Protection Protocols, which activists say the government plans to expand.

A coalition of immigrant rights groups alleges the government’s so-called return to Mexico policy breaks federal and international law.

Immigration attorney Hillary Gaston Walsh is not part of the case, but most of her clients are asylum seekers. Walsh, who is also a law professor, said the core of the lawsuit alleges the U.S. Department of Homeland Security did not finish legally required steps before launching the policy near San Diego. 

“It’s basically building the bicycle while it’s still riding it with no established plan forward,” she said “And with the lives of thousands of people, fleeing for their lives, at stake.”

The judge could decide quickly on whether to block the government from making asylum seekers live in Mexico while their court goes forward in the U.S., said Walsh.

Department of Justice Spokesman Steven Stafford said regarding the case, "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. The Department of Justice will defend the Department of Homeland Security’s lawful actions in court."

Homeland Security officials did not comment.