The White House says it would appeal a federal court ruling that halted a policy by the administration of President Donald Trump that requires asylum seekers from Central America to return to Mexico and wait for their legal cases to proceed.
“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 on Tuesday.
“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.
US District Judge Richard Seeborg in San Francisco, California, said on Monday that the Trump administration’s policy of sending asylum seekers to Mexico while their claims work through a backlogged immigration court system was not legal under US law and lacked safeguards to protect refugees from threats to their lives or freedom.
The judge’s ruling is scheduled to take effect on Friday. It was not immediately clear if the White House would seek a suspension of the ruling during the appeals process.
Federal agencies on the US-Mexico border are trying to stem the rising numbers of immigrants, many of them families fleeing violence and poverty in Central America.
The US 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 figure recorded the same time last year.
Trump has made toughening immigration policies a central tenet of his presidency and has vowed to build a wall along the US-Mexico border to combat illegal immigration and drug trafficking.
The US government recently experienced its longest partial shutdown in history, which lasted from December 22 until January 25, triggered by a fight in Congress over Trump’s demands for funding for a wall at the southern US border.
Trump warned in late April that he could close the border with Mexico to trade if immigrants are not stopped.
The US president sees his hard-line stance against illegal immigration as key to his 2020 reelection campaign.