A federal judge on November 20 ordered the Trump administration to resume accepting asylum claims from migrants no matter how they entered the US, dealing a temporary setback to the President’s attempt to clamp down on a huge wave of Central Americans crossing the border. Judge Jon Tigar of the US District Court for the Northern District of California issued a temporary restraining order that blocks the government from carrying out a new rule that denies protections to people who enter the country illegally. The order, which suspends the rule until the case is decided by the court, applies nationally. “Whatever the scope of the president’s authority, he may not rewrite the immigration laws to impose a condition that Congress has expressly forbidden,” Judge Tigar wrote in his order.
As a caravan of several thousand people journeyed toward the Southwest part of the US border, President Donald Trump signed an executive order two weeks ago that banned migrants from applying for asylum if they failed to make the request at a legal checkpoint. Only those who entered the country through a port of entry would be eligible, Trump said, invoking national security powers to protect the integrity of the US borders. Within days, the administration submitted a rule to the federal register, letting it go into effect immediately and without the customary period for public comment. But the rule overhauled longstanding asylum laws that ensure people fleeing persecution can seek safety in the US, regardless of how they entered the country. Advocacy groups, including the Southern Poverty Law Center and the American Civil Liberties Union, sued the administration for effectively introducing what they deemed an asylum ban.
After the judge’s ruling on Monday, Lee Gelernt, the ACLU attorney who argued the case, said, “The court made clear that the administration does not have the power to override Congress and that, absent judicial intervention, real harm will occur.” “This is a critical step in fighting back against President Trump’s war on asylum seekers,” Melissa Crow, senior supervising attorney for the Southern Poverty Law Center, one of the other organizations that brought the case, said in a statement. “While the new rule purports to facilitate orderly processing of asylum seekers at ports of entry, Customs and Border Protection has a longstanding policy and practice of turning back individuals who do exactly what the rule prescribes. These practices are clearly unlawful and cannot stand.”
President Donald Trump, when asked by reporters about the court ruling on Tuesday, criticized the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, the liberal-leaning court where the case will likely land, calling it a “disgrace.” He labeled Judge Tigar an “Obama judge.” Trump Administration officials signaled that they would continue to defend the policy as it moved through the courts. “Our asylum system is broken, and it is being abused by tens of thousands of meritless claims every year,” Katie Waldman, spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security, and Steve Stafford, the Justice Department spokesman, said in a statement. They said the president has broad authority to stop the entry of migrants into the country. “It is absurd that a set of advocacy groups can be found to have standing to sue to stop the entire federal government from acting so that illegal aliens can receive a government benefit to which they are not entitled,” they said. “We look forward to continuing to defend the executive branch’s legitimate and well-reasoned exercise of its authority to address the crisis at our southern border.”