The Supreme Court on Wednesday said it would allow the Trump administration to continue enforcing a policy that makes asylum-seekers wait in Mexico for court hearings in the United States.
The justices' order overturns a lower court order that would have blocked the policy, at least for people arriving at the border crossings in Arizona and California. Justice Sonia Sotomayor was the only dissenting vote.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals had said it would block the asylum policy, known officially as "Migrant Protection Protocols" for the two border states. That's when administration lawyers turned to the Supreme Court.
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 administration's lawyers can file an appeal petition with the high court, however, the justices may not even consider the appeal until the fall and, if the case is granted full review, arguments would not be held until early 2021.
About 60,000 asylum-seekers have been returned to Mexico to wait for their cases to wind through US immigration courts since the policy was introduced in January 2019 in San Diego and later expanded across the border.
On Wednesday, the Justice Department said 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 told Fox News.
The administration said in court papers that more than 36,000 of the 60,000 cases had been resolved in immigration courts. Asylum has been granted in less than 1% of the cases that have been decided. Only 5% are represented by attorneys, many of whom are reluctant to visit their clients in Mexico.
The administration had argued that thousands of immigrants would rush the border if the high court didn't step in.