Citing the global response to the coronavirus pandemic, the Trump administration on Monday moved to postpone all court hearings for the thousands of asylum-seekers it has returned to Mexico.
EOIR said Monday that any individual with a hearing date through April 22 should still present themselves at their designated port of entry on their previously scheduled date "to receive a tear sheet and hearing notice containing their new hearing dates". It added, however, that the administration's policy - officially known as the Migrant Protection Protocols - will not be canceled, nor will any hearings.
U.S. President Donald Trump said on Friday the United States will swiftly return migrants who attempt to cross into the country illegally from Mexico and Canada while closing the borders to "non-essential" travel to limit the spread of the new coronavirus.
Although officials did not specify whether asylum seekers in the MPP policy would be allowed inside the United States to attend their hearings in light of the new measures, immigration lawyers reported Monday morning migrants from the program were denied entry.
The move applies to around 25,000 asylum seekers, a lot of them fleeing poverty or persecution in Central American nations, who have been forced to stay in Mexico while their cases are under consideration.
Flanked by top US officials at the White House, Trump also said the United States and Mexico would work to keep commerce moving as much as possible across the border to try to limit disruptions to business. In the United States, the decision applies to all migrants. He noted that while waiting months for their hearings, many asylum-seekers have been living in squalid conditions inside camps and shelters located in crime-ridden Mexican borders cities like Matamoros, Tamaulipas, a state the U.S government warns Americans not to visit because of rampant violence.
Lawyers for the asylum seekers called the government's policy illegal, adding that in the months that it has been in effect "reports of murder, rape, torture kidnapping, and other violent assaults against returned asylum seekers have climbed".
"These people are broken-hearted", Newman told CBS News.