Trump administration sued over major shift in asylum policy

Associated Press
In this Feb. 9, 2017, file photo, a man walks up the steps of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals building in San Francisco.

San Francisco – The Trump administration’s policy of returning asylum seekers to Mexico while their cases wind through immigration courts illegally puts the migrants in danger and deprives them of the ability to prepare their cases, a lawsuit filed Thursday by civil liberties groups claims.

The suit in U.S. District Court seeks a court order blocking the Department of Homeland Security from carrying out the policy that took effect in January at the San Ysidro border crossing in San Diego.

The launch followed months of delicate talks between the U.S. and Mexico and marked a change to the U.S. asylum system that the administration and asylum experts said was unprecedented.

Mexican officials have sent mixed signals on the crucial point of whether Mexico would impose limits on accepting families.

“Under the new policy, immigration authorities are forcing asylum seekers at the southern border of the United States to return to Mexico – to regions experiencing record levels of violence – where they must remain for the duration of their asylum proceedings,” according to the lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups.

The policy violates the Immigration and Nationality Act and was implemented without required notice and comment, it says.

The Department of Homeland Security had no immediate comment on the lawsuit.

The suit was filed on behalf of 11 asylum seekers from Central America and legal groups that seek to represent asylum seekers.

It says the administration is sending people back to Mexico without adequately ensuring they won’t face persecution, torture or death.