Judge Blocks Ban on Asylum-Seekers Who Travel through Safe Third Country

Donald Trump looks at objects used to smuggle narcotics at the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol facility. (Reuters: Joshua Roberts)

A federal judge in San Francisco restored a nationwide injunction on Monday preventing the Trump administration’s ban on asylum-seekers who travelled through a so-called safe third country before arriving in the U.S.

U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar issued the ruling after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in August narrowed his previous nationwide injunction, allowing the Trump administration to implement the asylum-rule change in Texas and New Mexico but not in California or Arizona.

In response to an overwhelming surge in asylum-seekers arriving at the southern border, the administration announced in July that migrants who travel through a safe third country before arriving in the U.S. must apply for, and be denied, refugee status in that country before they can apply for asylum in the U.S.

The rule change would effectively bar Central American migrants, who comprise the vast majority of recent asylum-seekers, from applying for asylum in the U.S. after crossing through Mexico. Tigar ruled to temporarily block it in July after concluding that it violated federal immigration law. He also blocked another policy change that would have barred asylum-seekers who cross the border between ports of entry rather than surrendering themselves to law-enforcement authorities.

Mexico deployed 6,000 troops to its southern border in June after President Trump threatened to impose substantial tariffs on Mexican imports if steps were not taken to stem the flow of Central American migrants traveling through the country en route to the U.S. The troop deployment, combined with seasonal changes in migration patterns, appears to be having an effect: U.S. Customs and Border Patrol announced Wednesday that the number of border apprehensions has declined by more than 56 percent since peaking in May at 144,255.

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