Federal judge temporarily blocks Trump admin’s new asylum rules

Guatemalan migrants cross into Mexico on July 22 2019 Credit Alfredo Estrella  AFP  Getty Images Guatemalan migrants cross into Mexico on July 22, 2019. | Alfredo Estrella / AFP / Getty Images.

A federal judge in California has issued a temporary injunction against the Trump administration's new rule limiting asylum eligibility on the southern U.S. border.

The injunction will halt the rule from being enforced while legal challenges against it are heard in the courts. The American Civil Liberties Union, the Center for Constitutional Rights and other groups are arguing against the law.

U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar said the policy is "inconsistent with existing asylum laws."

"Under our laws, the right to determine whether a particular group of applicants is categorically barred from eligibility for asylum is conferred on Congress," he said.

"While the public has a weighty interest in the efficient administration of the immigration laws at the border, it also has a substantial interest in ensuring that the statutes enacted by its representatives are not imperiled by executive fiat."

Tigar's nationwide injunction overrules a previous decision by a federal judge in Washington, D.C., to allow the rule to move forward while it faced court challenges.

The Trump administration has said that its policy, which had gone into effect July 16, aims to crack down on false asylum claims, as the number of people seeking asylum in the U.S. has risen drastically in the last decade.

The new policy establishes that claimants are ineligible to apply for asylum in the United States if they failed to first apply for asylum in any third country they passed through after departing their country of origin.

For many asylum seekers traveling from Central of South America, this means first applying for asylum in Mexico before being eligible to claim asylum in the U.S.

The rule contains a number of exceptions. Those who arrive at an American port of entry having passed through a country that has not signed up to certain refugee agreements are exempt, as are survivors of human trafficking.  Those who apply for asylum in a pass-through country and are denied there may still claim asylum in the United States.

A similar policy is in place along the northern border of the U.S. A 2014 agreement between the U.S. and Canada requires a person to claim asylum in either the U.S. or Canada, depending on which country they arrived in first. However, critics of the Trump administration's new policy argue that Mexico does not have the same capacity as Canada and the U.S. to ensure the safety of those seeking asylum.

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. bishops' conference, condemned the asylum rule shortly after it was announced, saying that it "adds further barriers to asylum-seekers' ability to access life-saving protection, shirks our moral duty, and will prevent the United States from taking its usual leading role in the international community as a provider of asylum protection."

The number of asylum claims has dramatically increased over the last decade, with very few asylees being allowed to stay. In 2009, there were 35,811 people who applied for asylum in the United States, and 8,384 were granted. In 2018, that number had more than quadrupled to 162,060 claims, with 13,168 actually granted.

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