The Slatest

Federal Judge Temporarily Blocks Trump Administration from Denying Asylum to Those Arriving Outside Ports of Entry

A woman looks out to the distance as a group of migrants, cast in a pink-hued light at night, wait for food.
Central American migrants moving towards the United States to seek asylum wait in line for food in Mexicali, Baja California State, Mexico, on November 19, 2018.
Pedro Pardo/Getty Images

A federal judge in San Francisco has temporarily blocked the Trump administration from denying asylum to migrants crossing the southern border illegally—outside a designated port of entry—as he said it was likely the Nov. 9 rule violated a federal law related to asylum eligibility.

“Whatever the scope of the president’s authority, he may not rewrite the immigration laws to impose a condition that Congress has expressly forbidden,” Jon S. Tigar wrote in his opinion late Monday. “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 ruling, one of several setbacks to the administration’s hard-line immigration efforts, strikes a blow against Trump’s attempts to restrict a large number of Central American asylum seekers from entering the country. Trump signed the Nov. 9 order as he stoked fears of a migrant caravan headed north toward the U.S.-Mexico border.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which brought the case on behalf of several nonprofits, argued that a federal statute allowed migrants to apply for asylum, “whether or not at a designated port of arrival.” The ACLU also argued that by fast-tracking the rule, the administration had ignored its legal requirement to ask for public feedback under the Administrative Procedures Act.

The Trump administration has argued that it has the authority to impose restrictions on asylum as part of the president’s national security powers to protect the integrity of the country’s borders.

Tigar, in his order, disagreed. The temporary nationwide restraining order indicates he believes the ACLU will win on the merit of its case and that the plaintiffs would suffer harm from the rule.

The judge’s order will remain in place until Dec. 19, at which point the judge will conduct a full hearing. If the judge rules against the Trump administration, it will have the opportunity to appeal.