By David Meyer
November 20, 2018

Earlier this month, the Trump administration moved to block migrants from applying for asylum if they cross the southern border anywhere else than at official ports of entry. But less than two weeks later, the move is on hold.

Late Monday, a San Francisco district court judge blocked the ban with a temporary, nationwide restraining order. While the White House believes President Donald Trump has the authority to choose who enters the country, District Judge Jon Tigar does not agree, especially as the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act expressly allows asylum applications regardless of whether or not the applicant entered the country at a designated entry point.

“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 said.

The ruling only applies until December 19, when a federal judge in San Francisco will decide whether to issue a preliminary injunction that extends the blockage.

The case against the government was brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and other civil society groups. Tigar issued the restraining order on the basis that their arguments would probably prevail in further hearings.

“This ban is illegal, will put people’s lives in danger, and raises the alarm about President Trump’s disregard for separation of powers,” said ACLU attorney Lee Gelernt in a statement quoted by the Washington Post. “There is no justifiable reason to flatly deny people the right to apply for asylum, and we cannot send them back to danger based on the manner of their entry. Congress has been clear on this point for decades.”

The president claimed repeatedly ahead of this month’s midterm elections that the U.S. was under threat from a slow-moving “caravan” of migrants fleeing violence in Central America. Per the Post, the Justice Department’s lawyer tried unsuccessfully to convince Tigar that there was a “crushing strain” of people trying to cross the southern border illegally.

Trump sent thousands of troops to the Mexican border. However, with the midterms now over and the first migrants in the convoy arriving at the border, the general in charge of the deployment told Politico Monday that the troops will start to go home as early as this week.

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