Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito on Friday issued a brief stay on a federal judge’s ruling that would reinstate a Trump administration policy forcing asylum seekers to wait in Mexico while their cases are processed.
The four-day administrative stay will allow “the full court [to] consider” the Biden administration’s request for a longer stay, wrote Alito, who handles emergency matters from Texas for the court.
The “remain in Mexico” policy, established by then-President Donald Trump in 2018, has forced almost 70,000 asylum seekers to stay across the border in Mexico while their asylum applications are processed.
The Department of Homeland Security rescinded the policy on June 1. But Texas and Missouri sued to challenge the change, arguing that the Trump policy successfully dissuaded migrants from filing fake asylum claims that would allow them to enter the country and evade detection.
The Biden administration has countered that migration has soared to record highs even with the policy in place, and that legitimate asylum claims are being abandoned amid the hardship of waiting in squalid conditions in Mexico border areas.
The Biden administration wants a stay to remain in place while the case is resolved.
Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, a Trump appointee, ruled last week that the government’s explanation for the change in policy was inadequate under federal law. He ordered the remain-in-Mexico policy to be reinstated by Saturday. The order was upheld Thursday by an appellate court.
Government lawyers argued in their appeal to the Supreme Court that reinstating the asylum policy would be “near-impossible” and would cause “irreparable harm.”
Others warned that it would force asylum seekers to stay in dangerous group settings as the highly contagious delta variant is fueling a surge in COVID-19 cases.