Judge blocks Trump from denying asylum to migrants entering US illegally

A federal judge late Monday blocked the Trump administration from denying asylum to migrants who enter the U.S. illegally.

Judge Jon Tigar of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California sided with opponents of President Trump’s policy, granting their request for a temporary restraining order.

“Whatever the scope of the President’s authority, he may not rewrite the immigration laws to impose a condition that Congress has expressly forbidden,” the Obama appointee wrote in his 37-page ruling.


The administration’s claim that its policy can be harmonized with the Immigration and Naturalization Act is unpersuasive, Tigar wrote.

If the rule were allowed to take effect while the case plays out in court, Tigar said the challengers — East Bay Sanctuary Covenant and three other organization that help refugees — would suffer irreparable injury.

“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,” he said. “The government offers nothing in support of the new rule that outweighs the need to avoid these harms.”

Trump earlier this month clamped down on asylum claims as part of his broader efforts to crack down on illegal immigration.

The Justice Department and Department of Homeland Security had earlier published a joint rule prohibiting certain people caught crossing the U.S. southern border from Mexico between ports of entry from claiming asylum.

"Our asylum system is overwhelmed with too many meritless asylum claims from aliens who place a tremendous burden on our resources," acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenDemocratic Party chief: Trump is 'compromised' Hillicon Valley: Facebook expects up to B FTC fine | DHS face scanning at airports sparks alarm | New Twitter tool targets election misinformation | Lawmakers want answers on Google 'Sensorvault' Dems accuse White House of caving to Trump's 'ego' on Russian meddling MORE said in a joint statement at the time.

The rule was opposed by immigration activists and civil rights groups including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Center for Constitutional Rights.

“This ban is illegal, will put people’s lives in danger, and raises the alarm about President TrumpDonald John TrumpForget the spin: Five unrefuted Mueller Report revelations Lara Trump: Merkel admitting migrants 'one of the worst things that ever happened to Germany' Financial satisfaction hits record high: survey MORE’s disregard for separation of powers," ACLU attorney Lee Gelernt, who argued the case, said in a statement Tuesday. “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.”

Baher Azmy, a lawyer with the Center for Constitutional Rights, added that the law "couldn't be clearer" in stating that asylum claims are expressly allowed for individuals who enter the country through a manner besides a legal port of entry.

“Individuals are entitled to asylum if they cross between ports of entry,” he said.

The asylum crackdown came as a caravan of Central American migrants moved northward through Mexico toward the U.S. border.

Ahead of this month's midterms, Trump focused his rhetoric on immigration and the caravan itself, but he has been largely quiet about the migrants since the elections took place.

Tigar’s temporary restraining order will remain in effect until either Dec. 19. or further order from the court.

Kyle Balluck contributed.

--Updated at 10:22 a.m. 

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