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  • Central American migrants sleep outside the Our Lady of Guadalupe Cathedral in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, July 14, 2019.

    Central American migrants sleep outside the Our Lady of Guadalupe Cathedral in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, July 14, 2019. | Photo: Reuters

Published 17 July 2019

Civil rights groups are seeking a hearing on their request for a restraining order on Thursday in the San Francisco federal court, according to a court document.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and other groups that sued to block the Trump administration's latest initiative to bar almost all asylum-seekers at the U.S.-Mexico border have asked courts Wednesday to freeze the measure while their cases are heard.

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The ACLU filed documents asking for a temporary restraining order in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

Two other immigrant advocacy groups which sued the Trump administration in U.S. District Court in Washington D.C. on Tuesday have also asked the court to halt its implementation.

President Donald Trump's new policy announced on Monday requires asylum-seekers to first apply in one of the countries they traveled through before arriving at the southern U.S. border.

If they do so and are rejected, only then do they become eligible to apply in the United States. The change effectively shifted the responsibility for processing asylum claims to countries such as Mexico and Guatemala.

The ACLU's lawsuit argues that U.S. law establishes that an asylum-seeker can only be required to seek protection in another country under two conditions: when the United States has a "safe third country" agreement in place, or when the asylum-seeker has firmly resettled in another country.

According to the 1951 Refugee Convention, which is a binding document for all the United Nations members, a country like the U.S. can refuse to grant refuge to asylum seekers and send them to a country that is considered "safe" to their lives. Canada struck a pact of those characteristics back in 2002.

This means the North American nation can shift the burden onto other countries potentially sending Salvadorian and Honduran asylum seekers to Guatemala or Mexico.

The United States is seeking "safe third country" agreements with Mexico and Guatemala. However, those governments have already refused to become a ‘safe third country.’ 

Moreover, just traveling through a country is insufficient to establish someone has firmly resettled there, the lawsuit says.

As a result, the new rule would force people to return to their home countries, which often "are rife with danger and violence," the suit says.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is currently detaining more than 50,000 migrants a day, most of them are asylum seekers protected by international law, escaping political persecution, gang and drug-related violence. 

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