The U.S. Supreme Court handed the White House a victory on Wednesday by allowing a policy to remain in place that allows asylum seekers to be sent back to Mexico.
The “Remain in Mexico” policy unveiled in December 2018 by the Trump administration calls for non-Mexican asylum seekers to remain in Mexico while their cases are being decided.
Tens of thousands of asylum seekers, most of them fleeing poverty or persecution in Central American nations, have been forced under the policy to stay in Mexico while their cases are under consideration.
Rights groups have warned that the policy makes ayslum seekrs vulnerable to abuse an exploitation from criminal gangs operating around the border.
A federal appeals court ruled the practice illegal last month but allowed it to remain in place while the Trump administration appealed the ruling to the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court granted a stay of the ruling by the lower court pending a full consideration of the issue.
Solicitor General Noel Francisco said if the “Remain in Mexico” policy was struck down, then “substantial numbers of the up to 25,000 returned aliens who are awaiting proceedings in Mexico will rush immediately to enter the United States.
“A surge of that magnitude would impose extraordinary burdens on the United States and damage our diplomatic relations with the government of Mexico,” Francisco argued.
The American Civil Liberties Union denounced the Supreme Court order.
“The Court of Appeals declared it illegal and (the Supreme Court) should as well,” the ACLU said. “Asylum seekers face grave danger and irreversible harm every day from this policy.”
President Donald Trump has named two conservative justices to the nine-member Supreme Court since taking office, and they now outnumber liberals by a five to four margin.
The court has handed the Trump administration several notable victories on immigration in the past few months, including allowing the use of military funds to help build the U.S.-Mexico border wall.
Trump, who is seeking reelection in November, has made cracking down on illegal immigration one of the cornerstones of his presidency.