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Groups: Migrants told to wait in Mexico faced 'bait, switch'

Advocacy groups say the Trump administration played "bait and switch" by telling migrants to wait in Mexico to apply for asylum before imposing sharp restrictions on their eligibility.

The Southern Poverty Law Center and other groups asked a judge Thursday to prohibit the government from applying the new restrictions to anyone who appeared at an official border crossing to claim asylum before the policy was announced July 16.

The restrictions deny asylum to anyone who reached the U.S. after traveling through another country and failing to seek asylum there.

Volunteers in Tijuana, Mexico, call names from from a waiting list of people to claim asylum at a border crossing in San Diego Thursday, Sept. 26, 2019. The Trump administration played "bait and switch" by instructing migrants to wait in Mexico for an opportunity to apply for asylum before imposing sharp restrictions on eligibility, attorneys said in a court filing Thursday. (AP PhotoElliot Spagat)

U.S. officials have repeatedly said the right way to seek asylum is to apply at border crossings, instead of entering illegally and asking for it after being detained by immigration authorities.

The Justice Department declined to comment on Thursday's filing in a federal lawsuit in San Diego.

A Mexican boy draws with crayons while his family waits in Tijuana, Mexico, for their names to be called from a waiting list to claim asylum at a border crossing in San Diego Thursday, Sept. 26, 2019. An advocacy group served free oatmeal at left. The Trump administration played "bait and switch" by instructing migrants to wait in Mexico for an opportunity to apply for asylum before imposing sharp restrictions on eligibility, attorneys said in a court filing Thursday. (AP PhotoElliot Spagat)

Asylum seekers in Tijuana, Mexico, listen to names being called from a waiting list to claim asylum at a border crossing in San Diego Thursday, Sept. 26, 2019. The Trump administration played "bait and switch" by instructing migrants to wait in Mexico for an opportunity to apply for asylum before imposing sharp restrictions on eligibility, attorneys said in a court filing Thursday. (AP PhotoElliot Spagat)

Asylum seekers in Tijuana, Mexico, listen to names being called from a waiting list to claim asylum at a border crossing in San Diego, Thursday, Sept. 26, 2019. The Trump administration played "bait and switch" by instructing migrants to wait in Mexico for an opportunity to apply for asylum before imposing sharp restrictions on eligibility, attorneys said in a court filing Thursday. (AP PhotoElliot Spagat)

Two Mexican boys in Tijuana, Mexico, listen to volunteers calling names from a waiting list to claim asylum in the U.S. at a border crossing in San Diego, Thursday, Sept. 26, 2019. The Trump administration played "bait and switch" by instructing migrants to wait in Mexico for an opportunity to apply for asylum before imposing sharp restrictions on eligibility, attorneys said in a court filing Thursday. (AP PhotoElliot Spagat)