Stephen waits in his motel room that he shares with two other men to keep the cost down in Tapachula, Mexico on May 8. File Photo by Ariana Drehsler/UPI. | License Photo
June 26 (UPI) -- A union representing U.S. asylum officers has asked a federal court to end the Trump administration's policy of forcing migrants to wait in Mexico while the United States decides their asylum cases, saying the measure goes against the nation's "moral fabric."
Since implementation in January, the Migrant Protection Protocols program has resulted in 12,000 migrants returned to Mexico. The court filing by the union Wednesday is in support of a lawsuit against the MPP filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, the Southern Poverty Law Center and other groups.
The union, Local 1924, which represents over 2,500 U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services employees, said in the court filing that the policy "abandons our tradition of providing a safe haven to the persecuted and violates our international and domestic legal obligations."
The union said the migrants sent to Mexico to wait for their asylum applications to be completed are not safe. Most are ethnic minorities from indigenous cultures and face persecution there comparable to what they were fleeing.
"Asylum officers are duty bound to protect vulnerable asylum seekers from persecution," the union said. "However, under the MPP, they face a conflict between the directives of their departmental leaders to follow the MPP and adherence to our nation's legal commitment to not returning the persecuted to a territory where they will face persecution."
The union said asylum officers should not be forced to follow a governmental directive that is "fundamentally contrary to the moral fabric of our nation."
The MPP is "entirely unnecessary" as the immigration system is capable of handling the flow of migrants at the U.S. southern border, the union wrote.
Acting USCIS Director Ken Cuccinelli called the union's filing an attempt to score "short-term political points."
He said in a Twitter thread that the United States' ability to provide humanitarian assistance to those who qualify will collapse under "this influx of fraudulent and non-meritorious claims."
The Trump administration announced the policy in December, saying it would prevent people from using the asylum system to enter the United States and then stay illegally.
"MPP protects both the vulnerable while they wait for their hearing and our asylum system from chocking on meritless claims," he said. "THAT is what protection officers signed up for."