A federal court Tuesday night upheld a challenge to the Trump administration’s asylum restrictions, namely a 2019 rule that requires seekers to ask for asylum closer to home.
U.S. District Court Judge Timothy J. Kelly of the District of Columbia ruled in favor of immigrant nonprofits and asylum seekers who argued that the eligibility of the rule known as the “Third-Country Asylum Rule,” which was jointly published by the U.S. Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security, wrongly violated the Immigration and Nationality Act.
Kelly agreed that in adopting the policy, the administration did not abide by the federal Administrative Procedure Act, which requires that Americans have enough time and opportunity to weigh in on such rule changes.
The Immigration and Nationality Act, the judge argued, generally allows anyone who has made it to U.S. soil to apply for asylum, with some exceptions, including for those with criminal records.
“There are many circumstances in which courts appropriately defer to the national security judgments of the Executive,” Kelly wrote. “But determining the scope of an APA exception is not one of them.”
Tuesday night’s move is a major blow to the administration’s toughest asylum policy and comes on the heels of the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 18 decision to uphold the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which has allowed nearly 800,000 young people, known as Dreamers, to avoid deportation.
The third-country rule appeared to be aimed at Central American migrants who claimed they were fleeing gang violence. President Donald Trump has vowed to halt the migrants’ treks, including so-called caravans, through Mexico.
The rule has essentially forced asylum-seeking migrants from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador to first seek it from Mexico before asking the United States for help.
“This decision invalidates Trump’s ‘asylum ban’ at the Southern border,” former Acting Solicitor General and MSNBC legal analyst Neal Katyal said on Twitter Tuesday night. “The decision by Judge Kelly, who President Trump appointed to the bench in 2017, goes into effect immediately.”
Katyal said he was a party to the plaintiffs’ challenge.
The judge noted that the U.S. Supreme Court blocked an earlier injunction against the rule until the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed overturning the rule.
The impact might not be immediately felt along the U.S.-Mexico border. Kelly wrote that the “recent pandemic-related administrative action appears to have effectively closed the southern border indefinitely to aliens seeking asylum.
Last week a federal judge in Los Angeles ordered the release of children held in the country’s three family detention centers because of the danger posed by the coronavirus pandemic.
The Trump administration did record a win Thursday when the Supreme Court ruled that some asylum seekers can be fast-tracked for deportation.