Judge Halts Trump’s Ban on Asylum for Migrants Who Enter Country Illegally

Migrants, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America trying to reach the United States, in Tijuana, Mexico, November 19, 2018. (Hannah McKay/Reuters )

The Trump administration’s hard-line immigration agenda suffered another setback Monday when a federal judge ruled that it cannot deny asylum to immigrants who cross the border illegally.

Judge Jon Tigar of San Francisco temporarily blocked a recent executive-branch policy denying asylum to such immigrants. The court will rule on making that order permanent after it expires on December 19.

“Whatever the scope of the president’s authority, he may not rewrite the immigration laws to impose a condition that Congress has expressly forbidden,” read the court’s opinion. “Asylum seekers will be put at increased risk of violence and other harms at the border, and many will be deprived of meritorious asylum claims.”

The American Civil Liberties Union joined the Southern Poverty Law Center and others in filing the suit, arguing the asylum ban violates a U.S. law that states “any alien who is physically present in the United States or who arrives in the United States (whether or not at a designated port of arrival…) irrespective of such alien’s status, may apply for asylum.”

“Congress has clearly commanded that immigrants be eligible for asylum regardless of where they enter,” wrote Tigar, an Obama appointee.

The ACLU’s attorney, Lee Gelernt, said after the ruling that “absent judicial intervention, real harm will occur.”

“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,” SPLC senior supervising attorney Melissa Crow added.

The Justice Department argued that, “the rule and proclamation aim to save lives by discouraging asylum seekers from making dangerous, unlawful border crossings.”

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