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A federal appeals court blocked the Trump administration from sending asylum seekers to Mexico to wait for their immigration hearings in the US, a major blow to the administration as it has increasingly relied on the program to send thousands of migrants back to Mexico. (Paul Ratje/AFP/Getty Images/FILE)
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Appeals Court Blocks Trump Administration From Sending Asylum Seekers To Mexico To Await Hearings

A federal appeals court blocked the Trump administration from sending asylum seekers to Mexico to wait for their immigration hearings in the US, a major blow to the administration as it has increasingly relied on the program to send thousands of migrants back to Mexico. (Paul Ratje/AFP/Getty Images/FILE)

(CNN) — A federal appeals court on Friday blocked the Trump administration from sending asylum seekers to Mexico to wait for their immigration hearings in the US, a major blow to the administration as it has increasingly relied on the program to send thousands of migrants back to Mexico.

The ruling by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals applies across the southern border and strips the administration of one of its key asylum policies, which went into effect in January 2019.

The so-called “remain in Mexico” program required migrants, many of whom are from Central America, to stay in Mexico until their respective court dates in the US. On Thursday, acting Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Mark Morgan said 59,000 people have been enrolled in the program, formally known as the Migrant Protection Protocols program.

Trump administration officials have repeatedly cited the policy as a success and attributed it in part to the drop in arrests along the southern border. Immigrant advocates, however, have argued that the policy put migrants in harm’s way as they waited in makeshift camps.

“The MPP has had serious adverse consequences for the individual plaintiffs,” wrote Judge William Fletcher. “Plaintiffs presented evidence in the district court that they, as well as others returned to Mexico under the MPP, face targeted discrimination, physical violence, sexual assault, overwhelmed and corrupt law enforcement, lack of food and shelter, and practical obstacles to participation in court proceedings in the United States. The hardship and danger to individuals returned to Mexico under the MPP have been repeatedly confirmed by reliable news reports.”

CNN has reached out to the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice for comment.

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