ACLU Wants Court To Block Trump's 'Remain In Mexico' Plan The ACLU is heading to federal court Friday in an effort to block a new Trump administration policy that requires asylum-seekers to remain in Mexico while their cases are pending in U.S. courts.
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ACLU Wants Court To Block Trump's 'Remain In Mexico' Plan

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ACLU Wants Court To Block Trump's 'Remain In Mexico' Plan

ACLU Wants Court To Block Trump's 'Remain In Mexico' Plan

ACLU Wants Court To Block Trump's 'Remain In Mexico' Plan

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The ACLU is heading to federal court Friday in an effort to block a new Trump administration policy that requires asylum-seekers to remain in Mexico while their cases are pending in U.S. courts.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The ACLU is heading to federal court in San Francisco today to try to block a new Trump administration policy restricting how people can claim asylum. The policy requires asylum-seekers to stay in Mexico while their cases are pending in U.S. courts. From member station KQED, Alex Hall reports.

ALEX HALL, BYLINE: At this shelter in Tijuana, rows of green, blue and orange tents are set up on a concrete slab. Migrants from Central America and elsewhere are here waiting for their next move. One of them is Juan Molina (ph), a doctor and political activist who says he left Honduras after escaping an attempted kidnapping by police. In February, Molina presented himself at the U.S.-Mexico border and asked for asylum.

JUAN MOLINA: (Speaking Spanish).

HALL: He carries several pages of listings for pro bono attorneys. He received them from U.S. immigration authorities when they sent him back to Mexico to await his court hearing.

MOLINA: (Speaking Spanish).

HALL: He says he called all of the attorneys on the list, but none was willing to help because he's not in the United States.

MOLINA: (Speaking Spanish).

HALL: Last week, the first of the migrants returned to Mexico under the migrant protection protocols had their first day in court. But there were problems. Attorney Olga Badilla was there. How did it go?

OLGA BADILLA: Not great (laughter).

HALL: Badilla found out at the last minute that her client's court date had been moved up due to a scheduling glitch. They had to scramble. She says neither the court nor officials with Customs and Border Protection, or CBP, have a way to contact migrants in Mexico.

BADILLA: They were leaving it up to CBP to notify people. But CBP has no ability to notify them because they themselves don't know where these individuals are.

HALL: Usually when an immigration hearing is rescheduled, Badilla says, the court sends a notice in the mail. But that didn't happen. And some migrants missed their hearings.

BADILLA: Some of these people have no homes. They're in temporary shelters that - you know, they may go from more than one temporary shelter to another one. And when they issued these notices to appear and they sent them back to Mexico, they simply wrote that the individual was in Baja California, Mexico. They did not list a specific address.

HALL: A Department of Homeland Security official points out that migrants can check the date of their hearing by calling a court information hotline. Lindsay Toczylowski, executive director of Immigrant Defenders Law Center, says even judges hearing these cases are frustrated.

LINDSAY TOCZYLOWSKI: There were five people who were not at their court hearings. And the judge pointed out that because of all of the procedural errors and issues with notice that he had seen, that he was not going to move forward with the government's request to remove all of those people in their absence.

HALL: Meanwhile, asylum-seeker Juan Molina is trying to work with the information he has.

MOLINA: (Speaking Spanish).

HALL: He says he's been given an appointment to appear in court, but he's worried these logistical problems will affect his case. In an email, a Department of Homeland Security spokesperson said the system is working properly and that the agency is unaware of any problems with migrants receiving legal assistance. The spokesperson also said that the department is working to make sure that migrants have the right dates they're expected to be in court. For NPR News, I'm Alex Hall.

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