'Remain in Mexico' policy blocked by appeals court

A federal appeals court in San Francisco on Friday blocked a Trump administration policy that has forced tens of thousands of migrants to wait in Mexico for months for hearings in U.S. immigration courts.

Put in place just a year ago, the program - known as the Migrant Protection Protocols or MPP - has already forced close to 59,000 people to be sent back to Mexico.

The policy, which began in San Diego, has since been expanded to other ports of entry all across the U.S.-Mexico border and is considered one of the most dramatic immigration policy changes enacted by the Trump administration.

A Human Rights Watch report out Friday showed at least 1,000 people who returned to Mexico under the program were violently attacked or threatened.

The Trump administration has argued that migrants under the policy can tell officials at any point in the process they have a fear of returning to Mexico, which stays compliant with international law.

(SOUNDBITE)(ENGLISH) U.S. PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP, SAYING ON FEBRUARY 4, 2020:

"If you come illegally, you will now be promptly removed from our country."

During his first three years in the White House, U.S. President Donald Trump has made cracking down on immigration a central theme through a series of new policies and rule changes.

The U.S. Department of Justice did not immediately respond to a request for comment but the administration is likely to quickly appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court as it has done with other rulings.