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US Court Rules 'Remain in Mexico' Policy May Continue — for Now

FILE - Migrants seeking asylum in the United States check their names on a printed list that's posted on a board near the international bridge, April 30, 2019, in Matamoros, Mexico.

The U.S. government can continue to return asylum-seekers to Mexico while their cases are pending, a U.S. appeals court ruled Tuesday.

The Trump administration policy, known formally as the Migration Protection Protocols (MPP), and informally as "Remain in Mexico," faces ongoing legal challenges.

A lower court ruled that the policy violated U.S. immigration law and stopped the government from carrying out the policy.

Government lawyers challenged the decision, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco determined in April that the policy could continue to be carried out while the court case is ongoing.

Tuesday's ruling by the three-judge appellate court panel extended that decision. The ruling rankled immigrant advocates who feel the policy may be dangerous.

"The decision to allow this cruel and irresponsible policy to continue will put many more people seeking protection in harm's way," said Charanya Krishnaswami, advocacy director for the Americas at Amnesty International USA.

"This month," she added, "we saw firsthand in San Diego and El Paso how this policy puts asylum-seekers at grave risk of discrimination, exploitation, sexual violence, kidnapping and death, and prevents them from accessing attorneys in proceedings that are a matter of life and death."

MPP began in January. Since then, more than 3,000 Central Americans have been sent back to Mexico to await their immigration court hearings, according to Mexican officials.

Asylum claims are based on whether an applicant has a "well-founded fear of persecution" in their home country for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion. It is part of U.S. and international law.

The decision to uphold MPP comes amid a dramatic shake-up in the administration's immigration leadership and numerous efforts by Trump's staff to alter the country's asylum program and border security strategy.

Trump tweeted a response to Tuesday's appellate court ruling.