Trump can make asylum seekers wait in Mexico, court says

A van carrying asylum seekers from the border is escorted by security personnel as it arrives at immigration court in San Diego

A van carrying asylum seekers from the border is escorted by security personnel as it arrives at immigration court in San Diego

A federal appeals court ruled on Tuesday that the Trump administration can continue to send Central American migrants to Mexico while their amnesty applications are being reviewed in the U.S. "Instead, they will wait for an immigration court decision while they are in Mexico", Nielsen wrote in the memo.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco found that a preliminary injunction barring the government from returning asylum seekers to Mexico was "unlikely to be sustained" on appeal in its present form and stayed the lower court ruling.

The case must still be considered on its merits and could end up at the Supreme Court.

In the order filed Tuesday, the appellate court concluded that the Department of Homeland Security would likely suffer irreparable harm without a stay "because the preliminary injunction takes off the table one of the few congressionally authorized measures available to process the approximately 2,000 migrants who are now arriving at the Nation's southern border on a daily basis".

The U.S. government was appealing an order by a U.S. District Court in early April that enjoined the policy, known as the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP).

Immigrant-rights groups were horrified at the reversal - one of only a few battles they've lost in the courts.

The policy was introduced to deal with a growing number of asylum-seeking families from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador arriving at the USA border with Mexico.

The U.S. has returned 3,267 Central American asylum seekers through three border cities, Mexico's immigration agency said Monday. Under a court order, children generally can not be detained more than 20 days, which has led to widespread releases of families nearly immediately after they are stopped by authorities.

"The plaintiffs fear substantial injury upon return to Mexico, but the likelihood of harm is reduced somewhat by the Mexican government's commitment to honor its international-law obligations and to grant humanitarian status and work permits to individuals returned", the judges concluded.

The American Civil Liberties Union, Southern Poverty Law Center and Center for Gender & Refugee Studies sued over the policy.

The judges issued a stay on a lower court injunction that had threatened to halt the policy.

Justice and Homeland Security Department officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment late Tuesday, and neither did Mexico's Foreign Relations Secretary officials.