FederalImmigration & BorderIssuesTrump Administration’s New Asylum Rule Blocked by California Judge After Being Upheld in Washington

In the wake of lawsuits challenging the Trump administration's new asylum rule, a federal judge in D.C. upheld the policy. Hours later, a federal judge in California blocked it.
July 25, 2019
On Wednesday, a federal judge in California temporarily blocked a new immigration policy issued by the Trump administration aimed at reducing the number of aliens seeking asylum at the southern border just hours after a federal judge in Washington D.C. upheld the same policy.

Enacted on July 16 by the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Justice, the new third-country asylum rule requires those seeking asylum who first pass through another country while en route to the US to first seek protection in that country, with exceptions for those who were previously denied protection in another country, victims of human trafficking, and other specified conditions.  

In response to this new immigration policy, U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar in San Francisco issued a preliminary injunction to block the new third-country asylum rule from implementation. 

Describing the new immigration policy as “arbitrary,” “capricious,” and “inconsistent with existing asylum laws,” Tigar’s ruling comes after the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLU), and Center for Constitutional Rights filed a recent lawsuit in response to the Trump administration’s new asylum rule. 

While Tigar acknowledges that “the strains on this country’s immigration system have only increased since the fall of 2018,” his ruling alleges that the new policy could potentially place aliens in perilous situations if they are forced to seek protection in other countries before arriving in the United States.  

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Additionally, the ruling asserts that other countries through which many asylum-seekers pass while en route to the US, like Mexico and Guatemala, are not “feasible” alternatives in which they can remain. He argues that countries without sufficient resources to handle the growing influx of asylum-seekers will not be able to guarantee safety to those seeking refuge. 

Last November, Tigar was also the judge that blocked the implementation of a similar asylum policy issued by the Trump administration that sought to ban asylum-seeking by illegal aliens entering the United States between ports of entry. 

Tigar’s ruling was issued just hours after U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly in Washington D.C. effectively upheld the new third country rule by denying a motion to halt implementation of the new policy. His ruling was issued in response to a lawsuit filed by the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES) and the Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights Coalition.

According to Judge Kelly, the two immigrant advocacy groups failed to provide sufficient evidence that their work would be directly harmed or affected by the new policy in question. Additionally, Kelly expressed “strong doubts” that the two advocacy groups would be able to prove the government abused its authority by issuing the new policy. 

In a tweet praising Kelly’s decision, acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Ken Cuccinelli called the ruling “a major victory” for the administration in their efforts to end “the crisis at the southern border.”

President Trump echoed these sentiments praising Kelly’s decision as a  “tremendous ruling,” that the administration both “appreciate(s)” and “respect(s).”

In regard to Kelly’s ruling in favor of the policy, Tigar said, “My ruling is not binding on him, just as his ruling is not binding on me. We have the appellate courts to sort this out for us.”

The new asylum policy and subsequent legal challenges come as the number of aliens seeking asylum at the southern border continues to reach unprecedented numbers. Because those who apply for asylum are permitted to remain in the US while their cases are adjudicated, it is often advantageous to claim asylum when arriving at the border, whether their claims are valid or not. 

According to the Department of Homeland Security, the intention of the Trump administration’s new third-country asylum policy is to alleviate the burden placed on the immigration system by helping to reduce the number of meritless asylum cases.

With Judge Tigar’s injunction issued, the legality of the new third-country asylum rule will likely now work its way up to the U.S. Court of Appeals. 


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Sarah McConnell, Reporter for The Texan

Sarah McConnell

Sarah McConnell is a reporter for The Texan. Previously, she worked as a Cyber Security Consultant after serving as a Pathways Intern at the Department of Homeland Security – Citizenship and Immigration Services. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Texas A&M as well as her Master of Public Service and Administration degree from the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M. In her free time, Sarah is an avid runner, jazz enthusiast, and lover of all things culinary.