By Claire Hansen, US News
THE SUPREME COURT SAID Monday it would review cases concerning the Trump administration’s use of Defense Department money to build a wall along the southern border and its policy that forces asylum-seekers to wait in Mexico while their cases work through the immigration court system in the U.S.
The two actions are pillars of President Donald Trump’s immigration policy. The justices did not expedite either case, meaning that they will be heard next year, with rulings expected mid-2021. Former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic nominee for president, has pledged to end Trump’s asylum policies and stop the use of military money for construction on the wall.
The reviews come after lower courts found both actions likely illegal. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held last year that the asylum policy, officially called the Migrant Protection Protocols, likely violated federal immigration law, but the Supreme Court later ruled that it could continue while the legal battle went on.
The policy, colloquially called “Remain in Mexico,” has kept tens of thousands of migrants in that country while they wait for court hearings in the U.S., rather than be released into the U.S. to work and live while their cases are adjudicated – a process that can sometimes take a year or longer.
The program is one of several actions the Trump administration has taken to try to stem the flow of asylum-seekers coming to the U.S. from Mexico and Central American, and the administration argues that it weeds out meritless asylum claims. It has been panned by immigration advocates, lawyers and Democratic lawmakers, who note that the migrants, including children, have faced violence in Mexico and that the policy has created humanitarian crises in Mexican towns along the border.
The pandemic has disrupted the government’s reliance on the program to deal with migration at the southern border. Court cases in the U.S. have been postponed, and border agents are now immediately expelling any migrants found crossing the southern border without processing under orders from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In the border wall case, the Supreme Court similarly allowed construction of the wall to continue with Pentagon funds while legal challenges were heard. A number of lower courts have ruled that the administration does not have the authority to use billions in military funding for the wall because Congress didn’t approve it.
The wall is one of Trump’s signature pledges and has been at the center of fierce partisan fighting that at one point resulted in a lengthy government shutdown. After Congress last year refused to give Trump the money he asked for to build the wall, the president declared a state of emergency that the administration then used as justification for the use of military funds for construction.
The Supreme Court’s decision to review the two cases come after the justices said Friday they would rule on the Trump administration’s effort to exclude immigrants in the country illegally from the count used to apportion House seats among the states and allocate trillions in federal funding.