Federal judge temporarily blocked Trump’s administration from denying asylum to migrants who illegally cross the southern border into the United States, saying the policy likely violated federal law on asylum eligibility.
President Trump issued a proclamation on Nov. 9 that said anyone who crossed the southern border between official ports of entry would be ineligible for asylum. As the first of several caravans of migrants have started arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border, Trump said an asylum ban was necessary to stop what he’s attacked as a national security threat.
In a ruling on Monday, U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar agreed with legal groups that immediately sued, arguing that U.S. immigration law clearly allows someone to seek asylum even if they enter the country between official ports of entry.
“Whatever the scope of the President’s authority, he may not rewrite the immigration laws to impose a condition that Congress has expressly forbidden,” said Tigar, a nominee of former President Barack Obama.
The Department of Homeland Security did not immediately comment on the ruling, which will remain in effect for one month barring an appeal. In issuing the ban, Trump used the same powers he used last year to impose a travel ban that was ultimately upheld by the Supreme Court.
If enforced, the ban would potentially make it harder for thousands of people to avoid deportation. DHS estimates around 70,000 people a year claim asylum between official ports of entry. But Tigar’s ruling notes that federal law says someone may seek asylum if they have arrived in the United States, “whether or not at a designated port of arrival.”
“Individuals are entitled to asylum if they cross between ports of entry,” said Baher Azmy, a lawyer for the Center for Constitutional Rights, which sued the government alongside the American Civil Liberties Union. “It couldn’t be clearer.”
DHS has said it wants asylum seekers at the southern border to appear at an official border crossing. But many border crossings such as San Ysidro already have long wait times. People are often forced to wait in shelters or outdoor camps on the Mexican side, sometimes for weeks.