Judge Jon Tigar, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California (Photo: Jason Doiy/ALM)

A California judge late Monday issued a nationwide order blocking the Trump administration’s efforts to restrict asylum-seekers, saying a new rule imposed eligibility conditions that went beyond the powers granted by Congress.

The Trump administration’s rule and a related presidential proclamation restricting asylum claims on the southern border to those individuals who enter the U.S. at designated ports run afoul of the federal Immigration and Nationality Act, said Judge Jon Tigar of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. In some instances, he said, the rule would have categorically prevented some immigrants from making asylum claims.

“The rule barring asylum for immigrants who enter the country outside a port of entry irreconcilably conflicts with the INA and the expressed intent of Congress,” Tigar wrote. “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 imposed a nationwide injunction—the latest against a Trump administration immigration policy—that is set to run at least until Dec. 19. The ruling came just hours after a hearing in San Francisco federal district court, where the American Civil Liberties Union, representing nonprofit plaintiffs, argued against the so-called asylum ban. A related court hearing also was held Monday in Washington, D.C.

U.S. Justice Department lawyer Scott Stewart argued the Trump administration’s asylum rule did not flatly bar asylum-seekers so long as they enter through designated U.S. ports.

Tigar’s ruling is certain to be challenged by the Trump administration, which has railed against the number of nationwide injunctions blocking immigration and other policies. Tigar said he would meet with the lawyers in the case on Dec. 19 to review whether a preliminary injunction should be imposed.

“Potential asylum seekers are exposed to numerous harms while waiting to present their claims, including not only physical privations like physical assault but also the loss of valuable, potentially meritorious claims for asylum,” Tigar wrote. “The rule, when combined with the enforced limits on processing claims at ports of entry, leaves those individuals to choose between violence at the border, violence at home, or giving up a pathway to refugee status.”

ACLU attorney Lee Gelernt said in a statement: “This ban is illegal, will put people’s lives in danger, and raises the alarm about President Trump’s disregard for separation of powers. 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.”

In the Washington case, Judge Emmet Sullivan of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia did not issue an immediate ruling. Sullivan in August drew national headlines when he ordered the U.S. government to turn around a plane midflight carrying a woman and her daughter who had been seeking asylum. The judge was incensed that the government, despite assertions to the contrary, had removed the family amid emergency proceedings in the case.

Read the order:


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