The Trump administration can’t enforce its new restrictions on asylum applications anywhere along the Mexican border while the legality of the policy is being challenged, a federal judge ruled.
U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar in Oakland, California, ruled Monday that the injunction he issued in July applies nationwide and not just in the states that fall under the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in the western U.S.
The administration is seeking to prevent immigrants who arrive at the southern border from applying for asylum in the U.S. if they haven’t previously sought asylum in one of the countries they traveled through. The restriction specifically targets immigrants from Central American countries who come through Mexico and who, the administration claims, abuse the asylum process by mostly filing applications that are eventually denied.
“This ruling levels the playing field for all the vulnerable individuals and families seeking refuge in the United States,” Melissa Crow, senior supervising attorney at the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Immigrant Justice Project, said in a statement. “With this decision, regardless of where they cross the border, these people should be able to seek asylum.”
The Ninth Circuit has jurisdiction over Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon and Washington. Tigar was appointed by former President Barack Obama.
While the appeals court last month rejected the administration’s request to put Tigar’s July ruling on hold, it concluded that a nationwide injunction wasn’t supported and limited the scope of the injunction to its jurisdiction. The immigrant-rights groups then went back to Tigar with additional evidence to argue that their work would be harmed if the rules vary along different parts of the border.
The judge again agreed that organizations which provide legal assistance to immigrants had sufficiently shown that having two separate systems is unnecessary and would complicate their work. The groups argued that it would force them the divert their resources to design new workshops and train new volunteers for immigrants outside the Ninth Circuit.
Tigar also cited concern about potential confusion if a migrant is apprehended outside the Ninth Circuit’s jurisdiction and subsequently ends up before an immigration judge within that jurisdiction.
The Trump administration has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to put the injunction on hold. The White House didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the ruling.
In a separate case, a federal judge in Washington who was appointed by President Donald Trump is scheduled to take up a request for injunction against the policy on Sept. 11.
The case is East Bay Sanctuary Covenant v. Barr, 19-cv-04073, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (Oakland).
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