US government, ACLU face off in hearing over asylum seekers

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SAN DIEGO — A hearing was held in federal court Friday about a lawsuit challenging a controversial immigration policy.

The hearing focused on Migrant Protection Protocols – also known as the MPP program — put in place by the Trump administration.

Under MPP, which has expanded along the southern border, around 50,000 asylum seekers have been forced to wait in Mexico while their cases in the U.S. are processed.

U.S. border officials say the program has been a huge help for border security.

But the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial counties, which filed a lawsuit last month, claims MPP is putting migrants in danger, with no access to attorneys.

“They don’t understand the system imposed on them,” ACLU attorney Bardis Vakili said. “They need their lawyers to help navigate what is a complex system. Without them, they have no hope.”

Asylum seekers afraid of being held in Mexico are entitled to what’s called “non-refoulement” interviews. The ACLU says migrants should have access to attorneys before and during those interviews.

The government argues allowing that would be burdensome to the system and make the process less efficient.

“The administration has no interest in truthful outcomes of these proceedings,” Vakili said.

The judge said he will deliver his decision after the holidays.

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