Asylum-seeking migrants from Mexico and Central America queue to receive food rations at an encampment at El Chaparral border crossing with the U.S., in Tijuana, Mexico. REUTERS/Jorge Duenes

The American Civil Liberties Union of San Diego and Imperial Counties asked an appellate court Wednesday to reinstate a San Diego federal judge’s court order requiring access to legal counsel for asylum seekers.

The request comes after a federal judge in Texas blocked the Biden administration from ending Migrant Protection Protocols — also known as the Remain in Mexico program — which sent asylum seekers at the border back to Mexico to await their immigration court dates in the U.S.

U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw in San Diego issued a preliminary injunction last year that ruled asylum seekers who expressed fears about being returned to Mexico should be allowed to speak with legal counsel before being interviewed about their concerns.

The injunction was recently vacated by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals once the Biden administration ended the Remain in Mexico program, but U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk in Texas ordered the administration to implement and enforce the policy.

The U.S. Supreme Court later declined to issue a stay of Kacsmaryk’s order, and has since ordered the Biden administration to comply with his ruling.

Though the Department of Homeland Security issued a statement saying it “respectfully disagrees” with the decision and planned to challenge it, the agency said it “will comply with the order in good faith” while the appeal process unfolds.

The ACLU, which is asking the 9th Circuit to reinstate Sabraw’s order, alleges the Remain in Mexico program forced “tens of thousands of people who sought refuge in the United States” to return to Mexico, where they were exposed “to dangerous conditions, including kidnappings, rape and murder.”

ACLU immigrants’ rights staff attorney Monika Y. Langarica said, “Today, we asked the court to reinstate protections the court already recognized are required for people subject to the horrifying Remain in Mexico policy. But let us be clear that DHS can and must act quickly to ensure this program never puts another person in harm’s way.”

Langarica said the ACLU is also calling on the Biden adminstration “to take all actions available to it, including re-terminating MPP and declining, under any circumstances, to reimplement it, and immediately rescinding all other policies that obstruct access to asylum at the southern border.”

City News Service contributed to this article.

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