Supreme Court Decides to Let Trump Be Even Harsher to Asylum Seekers

Photo: Evan Vucci (AP)

The U.S. Supreme Court decided Wednesday to allow the Trump administration to enforce even tougher rules on the U.S.-Mexico border, a move that will likely have tragic outcomes for vulnerable people.

Now the U.S. can deny any person or child’s claim for asylum if they did not seek asylum from other countries as well, targeting refugees from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador who did not also seek asylum in Mexico. Although some of Trump’s asylum restrictions were blocked by lower courts, Wednesday’s Supreme Court decision gives the U.S. even more leeway to treat people with cruelty.

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Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissented, saying that the policy was given the green light too quickly.

The American Civil Liberties Union told the Supreme Court that the policy “bars virtually every non-Mexican asylum seeker who enters through the southern land border.”

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The ACLU said that the new policy violated federal law, arguing that the U.S. is only allowed to deny asylum claims if a person lives in a third country or that third country has a particular immigration agreement with the U.S.

People seeking to enter the U.S. this way are fleeing situations where they fear for their lives, whether that situation is gang violence, domestic violence, or food shortages, for example. Those who fear religious, racial, or political persecution also seek asylum. There is no fathomable reason anyone would subject themselves to the dangerous trip to the U.S.-Mexico border if they did not have good reason to.

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This new Trump policy is an extension of the broader violence of the immigration system. At least eight people have died while detained by U.S. immigration officials, including a man detained at McHenry County Adult Correctional Facility in Woodstock, Illinois who reportedly died on Tuesday.

Sotomayor wrote in her dissent, joined by Ginsburg: “It is especially concerning... that the rule the Government promulgated topples decades of settled asylum practices and affects some of the most vulnerable people in the Western Hemisphere—without affording the public a chance to weigh in.”

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Sotomayor added that the decision sidestepped parts of the democratic process: “I fear that the Court’s precipitous action today risks undermining the interbranch governmental processes that encourage deliberation, public participation, and transparency.”

It’s also important to take note that the U.S. is partly responsible for making these Latin American countries unsafe places to live for so many people. The U.S. played a role in a coup in Honduras, not when your parents were young, but in 2009, when Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State.

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ACLU lawyer Lee Gelernt said: “We will continue challenging the ban on the merits, because it puts countless lives at risk.”

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