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The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals had said a week earlier that it would block the policy in Arizona and California, the two border states where its authority extends. The Trump administration then turned to the Supreme Court for relief.
“The application for stay presented to Justice Kagan and by her referred to the Court is granted, and the district court’s April 8, 2019 order granting a preliminary injunction is stayed pending the timely filing and disposition of a petition for a writ of certiorari,” the Supreme Court said in an order, which noted that Justice Sonia Sotomayor opposed the Trump administration’s stay application.
The high court action came a day before the lower court order was to have taken effect. Instead, the “Remain in Mexico” policy will remain in force while a lawsuit challenging it plays out in the courts.
The Justice Department responded Wednesday by saying the high court’s order restores “the government’s ability to manage the Southwest border and to work cooperatively with the Mexican government to address illegal immigration.”
“We are gratified that the Supreme Court granted a stay, which prevents a district court injunction from impairing the security of our borders and the integrity of our immigration system,” a DOJ spokesman said.
The policy, officially known as the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) requires individuals seeking asylum at the southern border to stay in Mexico while the U.S. considers their cases. Several organizations sued the administration, claiming that MPP is in violation of federal law that sets standards for how asylum applicants are treated.
“The Court of Appeals unequivocally declared this policy to be illegal. The Supreme Court should as well,” said Judy Rabinovitz, an American Civil Liberties Union lawyer who represents asylum-seekers and immigrant advocacy groups in the case. “Asylum-seekers face grave danger and irreversible harm every day this depraved policy remains in effect.”
The administration had argued that thousands of immigrants would rush the border if the high court didn’t step in.
The Supreme Court’s order noted that the stay only applies while the administration files a petition for the Supreme Court to review the Ninth Circuit’s decision. Should the court decline, the stay will be lifted and the policy will go back to being blocked. Should the court decide to hear the case, the stay will remain in effect until the court hands down a decision.
About 60,000 asylum-seekers have been returned to Mexico to wait for their cases to wind through clogged U.S. immigration courts since the policy was introduced in January 2019 in San Diego and later expanded across the border.
Fox News’ Shannon Bream and Morgan Phillips and The Associated Press contributed to this report.