By Miriam Jordan
New York Times News Service
A federal judge on Monday ordered the Trump administration to resume accepting asylum claims from migrants no matter where or how they entered the United States, dealing at least a temporary setback to the president’s attempt to clamp down on a huge wave of Central Americans crossing the border.
Judge Jon S. Tigar of the U.S. District Court in San Francisco issued a temporary restraining order that blocks the government from carrying out a new rule that denies protections to people who enter the country illegally. The order, which suspends the rule until the case is decided by the court, applies nationally.
“Whatever the scope of the president’s authority, he may not rewrite the immigration laws to impose a condition that Congress has expressly forbidden,” Tigar wrote in his order.
As a caravan of several thousand people journeyed toward the Southwest border, President Donald Trump signed a proclamation Nov. 9 that banned migrants from applying for asylum if they failed to make the request at a legal checkpoint. Only those who entered the country through a port of entry would be eligible, he said, invoking national security powers to protect the integrity of the U.S. borders.
Within days, the administration submitted a rule to the federal register, letting it go into effect immediately and without the customary period for public comment.
But the rule overhauled long-standing asylum laws that ensure people fleeing persecution can seek safety in the United States regardless of how they entered the country. Advocacy groups, including the Southern Poverty Law Center and the American Civil Liberties Union, swiftly sued the administration for effectively introducing what they deemed an asylum ban.
After the judge’s ruling Monday, Lee Gelernt, the ACLU attorney who argued the case, said, “The court made clear that the administration does not have the power to override Congress and that, absent judicial intervention, real harm will occur.”
Trump administration officials signaled that they would continue to defend the policy as it moved through the courts.
“Our asylum system is broken, and it is being abused by tens of thousands of meritless claims every year,” Katie Waldman, spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security, and Steve Stafford, the Justice Department spokesman, said in a statement.
They said the president has broad authority to stop the entry of migrants into the country.