White House will appeal ruling against returning asylum seekers to Mexico

A migrant woman ties her hair outside her tent at a shelter in Tijuana, Mexico April 6, 2019. Picture taken April 6, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House said on Tuesday it would appeal a court ruling that halted a Trump administration policy requiring some asylum seekers to return to Mexico and wait for their legal cases to proceed.

U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg in San Francisco said on Monday that the administration’s policy of sending some Central American asylum seekers to Mexico while their claims work through a backlogged immigration court system was not authorized by U.S. law and lacked safeguards to protect refugees from threats to their lives or freedom.

“This action gravely undermines the president’s ability to address the crisis at the border with the tools Congress has authorized and disrupts the conduct of our foreign affairs,” the White House said in a statement.

“We intend to appeal, and we will take all necessary action to defend the executive branch’s lawful efforts to resolve the crisis at our southern border,” it added.

The judge’s ruling is scheduled to take effect on Friday. It was not immediately clear if the government would seek a suspension of the ruling while the appeals process runs its course.

A White House spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for additional comment.

Federal agencies on the U.S.-Mexico border are trying to stem the rising numbers of immigrants, many of them families fleeing violence and poverty in Central America. The Department of Homeland Security said it arrested or denied entry to more than 103,000 people along the border last month, more than double the March 2018 figure.

Reporting by Eric Beech, Makini Brice and Yeganeh Torbati; Editing by David Alexander and Grant McCool