President Donald Trump announces the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to be an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, replacing Justice Anthony Kennedy, in the East Room of the White House, on July 9, 2018. Photo: Diego M. Radzinschi/ALM

A federal lawsuit targeting the Trump administration’s latest moves on asylum seekers was filed in San Francisco federal court Friday afternoon, claiming their new restriction violates the Immigration and Nationality Act and the Administrative Procedure Act.

The lawsuit comes after acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen issued an interim final rule Thursday barring asylum for people who cross through the southern border outside designated ports of entry. President Donald Trump signed a proclamation on Friday to that effect.

The American Civil Liberties Union, Southern Poverty Law Center, and Center for Constitutional Rights, who represent the plaintiffs in the suit, are seeking declaratory and injunctive relief.


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In their complaint filed at the U.S. District Court in the Northern District of California, attorneys say the administration’s move is a “direct violation of Congress’s clear command that manner of entry cannot constitute a categorical asylum bar.”

They also contend the rule violated the APA because agency heads “promulgated the rule without the required procedural steps and without good cause for immediately putting the rule into effect.” The APA normally requires agencies to undergo a period of public notice and comment for proposed rule changes.

The plaintiffs suing the Trump administration are the East Bay Sanctuary Covenant, Al Otro Lado, Innovation Law Lab, and the Central American Resource Center in Los Angeles, all nonprofit groups that provide aid for asylum seekers.

“President Trump’s new asylum ban is illegal. Neither the president nor his cabinet secretaries can override the clear commands of U.S. law, but that’s exactly what they’re trying to do,” Omar Jadwat, the director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, said Friday.

“This action undermines the rule of law and is a great moral failure because it tries to take away protections from individuals facing persecution. It’s the opposite of what America should stand for,” he said.

The Justice Department did not immediately return a request for comment Friday.

The Justice Department and Department of Homeland Security in a statement defended the administration’s restriction as a “lawful order.”

“Under the laws of this country, the President has the right to suspend the entry of aliens if he determines it to be in the national interest—and that is what President Trump has done,” they said. They added: “We should not have to go to court to defend the President’s clear legal authority or our rights as a sovereign nation, but we will not hesitate to do so. We are confident that the rule of law will prevail.”

Read the complaint: