July 25 (UPI) — A federal judge in California blocked the Trump administration’s new rule that prohibits the vast majority of Central American migrants from asylum in the United States hours after a judge in Washington ruled in its favor.
The rule, implemented last Monday, requires asylum seekers to first apply for protection in the country they travel through to reach the United States. For most Central American migrants, that country is Mexico.
A day after it went into effect, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a complaint in a federal California court on behalf of four civil rights organizations seeking an injunction against the rule, arguing it is the Trump administration’s latest attempt to “significantly undermine, if not virtually repeal, the U.S. asylum system at the southern border.”
Late Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar, a President Barack Obama appointee, ordered a preliminary injunction against the rule, stating that it was likely invalid as it is inconsistent with existing asylum laws.
He said that the rule was invalid as only Congress has the power to determine who is barred from asylum, while stating that the government’s own records say Mexico is not safe for most asylum seekers as they are likely to be “exposed to violence and abuse from third parties and government officials, denied their rights under Mexican and international law and wrongly returned to countries from which they fled persecution.”
The rule is also applied to unaccompanied minors, he said.
“Yet, even though this mountain of evidence points one way, the agencies went the other — with no explanation,” he wrote in his ruling.
The ACLU applauded the court’s decision.
“The court recognized, as it did with the first asylum ban, that the Trump administration was attempting an unlawful end-run around asylum protections enacted by Congress,” ACLU attorney Lee Gelernt said in a statement.
In November, Tigar also ruled against a Trump administration policy to prohibit those who enter the United States illegally from asylum.
Justice Department lawyer Scott Stewart said the rule is necessary to stem the number of migrants applying for asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border, Courthouse News reported.
The Trump administration has long said that there is a crisis at the U.S. southern border due to an influx of asylum seekers in recent months.
According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection statistics, the total number of people apprehended at the U.S. southern border in the first nine months for fiscal year 2019 hit 688,375 people compared to 396,579 for all of fiscal year 2018.
Tigar’s 45-page ruling came hours after U.S. District Judge Timothy J. Kelly, a President Donald Trump appointee, ruled in favor of the rule, saying the plaintiffs — Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights Coalition and the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services — failed to establish how the rule would negatively affect them.
White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham called the ruling a “victory,” stating the court properly rejected “the attempt of a few special interest groups to block a rule that discourages abuse of our asylum system.”
Tigar said, however, that each judge must make their own decisions, Politico reported.
“My ruling is not binding on him, just as his ruling is not binding on me,” he said during the court hearing, referring to Kelly’s earlier decision. “We have the appellate courts to sort this out for us.”