SAN FRANCISCO — A federal appeals court has temporarily blocked a Trump administration policy that requires asylum-seekers to stay in Mexico while their cases make their way through U.S. immigration courts.

In a 2-1 vote Feb. 28, a panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco blocked the administration’s 2019 Migrant Protection Protocols, known as the “Remain in Mexico” policy, saying evidence had shown that Central American migrants are put in danger while awaiting word on their asylum cases.

With the policy, about 60,000 asylum-seekers have been sent back to Mexico.

The Feb. 28 ruling only applies to California and Arizona, the border states in the court’s jurisdiction.

The “Remain in Mexico” policy was first implemented at the border crossing in San Diego and it initially was limited to asylum-seekers from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. The policy was expanded to crossings in Calexico, California, and four Texas cities: El Paso, Eagle Pass, Laredo and Brownsville. It also was expanded to include more people from Spanish-speaking countries such as Brazil.

El Paso Bishop Mark J. Seitz said in a Jan. 31 statement: “A year of ‘Remain in Mexico’ has damaged enough human lives, hurt enough families and chipped away far too much at our country’s commitment to life, dignity and the protections that should be afforded to asylum-seekers and refugees.”

He also said the policy “unnecessarily” places Border Patrol agents and Customs and Border Protection officers in a “lamentable position.” These law enforcement officials who “are in the pews of our churches” have to choose “between following the laws of conscience or the morally bankrupt dictates of man when they encounter human beings in need, who represent for us Christ, hidden beneath the guise of misery, fear and desperation.”

A report about the policy by the nonprofit group Hope Border Institute in El Paso said it “represents a new level of assault on migrants, our binational communities and our country’s commitment to asylum. But it is also a piece (of) the long legacy of racism at the border and a national history of immigrant scapegoating. Both of these require a deep reckoning.”

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