Federal Judge Blocks Trump Administration’s Latest Asylum Ban

In this July 16, 2019 photo, people line up to cross the border into the United States on International Bridge 1, in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico.
Image: AP Photo (Marco Ugarte)

A federal judge in San Francisco blocked the Trump administration’s most recent asylum restrictions on Wednesday, ruling against a policy which sought to ban asylum seekers at the southern border who had passed through other countries without seeking asylum there first.

“Under our laws, the right to determine whether a particular group of applicants is categorically barred from eligibility for asylum is conferred on Congress,” U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar wrote. He issued a preliminary injunction against the policy.

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“An injunction would vindicate the public’s interest — which our existing immigration laws clearly articulate — in ensuring that we do not deliver aliens into the hands of their persecutors,” Tigar wrote.

He explained that this new policy does nothing to ensure asylum seekers’ safety:

The Rule is likely invalid because the government’s decision to promulgate it was arbitrary and capricious. The Rule purports to offer asylum seekers a safe and effective alternative via other countries’ refugee processes. As the Rule expressly contemplates, this alternative forum will most often be Mexico. But the government’s own administrative record contains no evidence that the Mexican asylum regime provides a full and fair procedure for determining asylum claims.

Earlier on Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Timothy J. Kelly in Washington, D.C. denied a request for a temporary restraining order. He ruled that the government could continue the policy.

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“My ruling is not binding on him just as his ruling is not binding on me,” Tigar said of Kelly’s decision.

Several groups had challenged the policy, including the American Civil Liberties Union, the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Center for Constitutional Rights.

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Lee Gelernt, an attorney with the ACLU, said: “The court recognized, as it did with the first asylum ban, that the Trump administration was attempting an unlawful end run around asylum protections enacted by Congress.”

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