A federal judge issued a late-night ruling Monday, blocking the Trump administration from saying ‘no’ to certain asylum-seekers.
The case, filed as a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union, addresses whether immigrants who cross the United States border illegally can still apply for asylum.
News of a U.S.-bound migrant caravan prompted President Trump to such requests for asylum, saying prospective migrants and asylum-seekers would have to submit their petitions at official border crossings.
Migrants seeking protection after entering the United States without authorization would still be eligible for acceptance in other, non-asylum programs. However, the Washington Post reports that winning temporary protection is substantially harder than being granted asylum—moreover, recipients would be ineligible to eventually apply for citizenship.
San Francisco-based Judge Jon Tigar, an Obama appointee, placed a temporary injunction on Trump’s order, saying it violates a “clear command” from Congress.
“Whatever the scope of the President’s authority, he may not rewrite the immigration laws to impose a condition that Congress has expressly forbidden,” Tigar wrote, adding that “failure to comply with entry requirements such as arriving at designated ports of entry should bear little, if any, weight in the asylum process.”
The Trump administration has vowed to press the matter in court. As the Post notes, the migrant caravan’s proved a source of continued frustration for President Trump.
Thousands of migrants have already arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border, with most camped close to the San Ysidro crossing. Connecting San Diego, California and Tijuana, Mexico, authorities temporarily shut down the crossing on Monday amidst rumors that migrants were planning to “rush illegally” into the United States.
To combat any aggressive attempts at entry—and, presumably, to score some political points—President Trump has sent thousands of military personnel along the border. While not allowed to arrest or interact with migrants, soldiers are providing logistical and surveillance support for Customs and Border Protection agents.
Military officials told the Washington Post they’re evaluating whether Tigar’s order has any impact on their current mission.
The Justice Department has indicated its desire to escalate Tigar’s decision, arguing that rulings on President Trump’s other immigration bans have been upheld by the Supreme Court.
“As the Supreme Court affirmed this summer, Congress has given the President broad authority to limit or even stop the entry of aliens into this country,” the Justice Department and Department of Homeland Security said in a joint statement. “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.”
ACLU attorneys welcomed Tigar’s ruling, alluding to the asylum restrictions’ illegality under international law.
“This ban is illegal, will put people’s lives in danger, and raises the alarm about President Trump’s disregard for separation of powers,” ACLU attorney Lee Gelernt said. “There is no justifiable reason to flatly deny people the right to apply for asylum, and we cannot send them back to danger based on the manner of their entry. Congress has been clear on this point for decades.”