A federal judge on Monday ordered the Trump administration to resume accepting asylum claims from migrants no matter where or how they entered the United States, dealing at least a temporary setback to the president’s attempt to clamp down on a huge wave of Central Americans crossing the border.
Judge Jon S. Tigar of the United States District Court in San Francisco issued a temporary restraining order that blocks the government from carrying out a new rule that denies protections to people who enter the country illegally. The order, which suspends the rule until the case is decided by the court, applies nationally.
“Whatever the scope of the president’s authority, he may not rewrite the immigration laws to impose a condition that Congress has expressly forbidden,” Mr. Tigar wrote in his order.
As a caravan of several thousand people journeyed toward the Southwest border, President Trump signed a proclamation on Nov. 9 that banned migrants from applying for asylum if they failed to make the request at a legal checkpoint. Only those who entered the country through a port of entry would be eligible, he said, invoking national security powers to protect the integrity of the United States borders.
Within days, the administration submitted a rule to the federal registry, letting it go into effect immediately and without the customary period for public comment.
But the rule overhauled longstanding asylum laws that ensure people fleeing persecution can seek safety in the United States, regardless of how they entered the country. Advocacy groups, including the Southern Poverty Law Center and the American Civil Liberties Union, swiftly sued the administration for effectively introducing what they deemed an asylum ban.
The advocacy groups accused the government of “violating Congress’s clear command that manner of entry cannot constitute a categorical asylum bar” in their complaint. They also said the administration had violated federal guidelines by not allowing public comment on the rule.
But Trump administration officials defended the regulatory change, arguing that the president was responding to a surge in migrants seeking asylum based on frivolous claims, which ultimately lead their cases to be denied by an immigration judge. The migrants then ignore any orders to leave, and remain unlawfully in the country.
”The president has sought to halt this dangerous and illegal practice and regain control of the border,” government lawyers said in court filings.