The Supreme Court cleared the way Wednesday for the Trump administration to deny asylum to migrants from other countries who traveled through Mexico before reaching the U.S., giving the administration a major win as it tries to stop the border surge. The move overrides a blockage put in place by a district court in California, allowing the asylum crackdown to go into effect even while the lower court continues to hear broader arguments on the case.
Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissented, saying they believed it likely the president broke procedural law in announcing the policy without going through all the regulatory hoops. “Once again the executive branch has issued a rule that seeks to upend longstanding practices regarding refugees who seek shelter from persecution,” wrote Justice Sotomayor in the dissent.
The policy, issued in July, was intended to discourage migrants from Central American who have streamed north in recent months, prepared to make iffy asylum claims and counting on the backlogged U.S. system and lax standards for initial asylum claims to earn them a foothold in the U.S. Only about one in five of the cases will eventually be granted asylum, analysts say, but that decision could come years down the road, by which time the migrants have disappeared into the shadows.
The administration’s new policy says that those truly seeking asylum could ask for it in Mexico, which is deemed a safe country. If they don’t, that suggests they’re not legitimate asylum-seekers fleeing persecution but rather regular migrants seeking better jobs or to unite with family — which are not usually valid reasons for asylum under U.S. law. Although the high court’s move isn’t a final decision on the merits and the case is still pending, President Trump celebrated the court’s order on Twitter.
Hogan Gidley, principal deputy press secretary, said the court’s move Wednesday will help the broken asylum system. “This greatly helps build on the progress we’ve made addressing the crisis at our southern border and will ultimately make American communities safer. The district court’s erroneous nationwide injunction was another in a series of overreaching orders that allowed a single, non-elected district court judge to override policy decisions for the entire nation,” he said.
The lifting of the injunction comes just days after a federal court reinstated it on Monday, siding with immigrant rights groups who challenged the policy over the summer. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had previously said the injunction could only reach as far as its jurisdiction, which includes nine states. But the Monday ruling by U.S. District Judge Jon S. Tigar for the Northern District of California, an Obama-appointee, attempted to expand the injunction across the country, saying it was the only remedy to provide complete relief to the plaintiffs.
“While many of these clients cross the border in the Ninth Circuit, they ‘move between jurisdictions throughout the lifetime of their asylum case,’” the judge wrote. The American Civil Liberties Union quickly filed suit a day after the administration issued the rule in July, arguing the policy unlawfully closed the door at the southern border to individuals fleeing persecution. According to Fox News, as of March this year there were more than 327,000 asylum applications pending. By comparison, there were 35,811 claims in 2009.