Politics

Trump-Appointed Judge Strikes Down President’s “Asylum Transit Ban”

Under the policy, Central American asylum seekers were not allowed to request protection in the U.S., unless they asked Mexico for asylum first.

Migrants, mostly from Central America, que to board a van which will take them to a processing center, on May 16, 2019, in El Paso, Texas. | Getty Images
Migrants, mostly from Central America, que to board a van which will take them to a processing center, on May 16, 2019, in El Paso, Texas. | Getty Images

A federal judge in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday struck down a Trump administration policy that banned asylum for immigrants seeking protection in the U.S. at the southern border. The ban took effect the same day that federal agencies announced it, which bypassed standard, lawful procedure, the judge ruled.

In a surprising decision, U.S. District Judge Timothy J. Kelly, whom President Trump appointed in 2017, said the administration, including Trump and his Attorney General Bill Barr, “unlawfully” issued the asylum restrictions. Kelly declined the administration’s request for a stay on the order, which would have delayed its enforcement, meaning the policy was repealed immediately.

The District Court’s decision on Tuesday ended the administration’s most robust asylum restriction thus far. The decision comes just weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court dealt a similar blow to the Trump administration’s immigration agenda by upholding the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

Immigration advocates and legal groups hailed the court’s decision on Tuesday as a decisive victory.

But a Trump administration official told NowThis that this loss in court is a matter of technicality rather than substance.

“The District Court’s order was based on a matter of procedural mechanics,” a Justice Department official claimed. “It was not a ruling on the substance of the asylum policy.”

The Repealed Asylum Policy, Briefly Explained

On July 16, 2019, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Justice Department issued the “Third-Country Asylum Rule.” Immigration lawyers and advocates, however, have referred to the rule as an “Asylum Transit Ban.”

The rule took specific aim at Central American asylum seekers — mostly from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala — who had to travel through Mexico before arriving at the southern U.S. border to apply for protection. Those immigrants were effectively banned from claiming asylum in the U.S., unless they applied for asylum in a different country while en route.  

Central American asylum seekers, under the policy, were not allowed to request protection in the U.S., unless they asked Mexico for asylum first. 

RELATED: Trump Administration Tells Asylum Seekers to Get Used to “Homelessness” With New Policy
 

The District Court’s Decision to Overturn The Policy

Judge Kelly ruled on June 30 that the Trump administration “unlawfully” issued the joint DHS-DOJ regulation when it bypassed federal regulation rules in an effort to expedite the policy’s implementation. 

The Administrative Procedure Act (APA) requires that the public has between 30 and 60 days to send comments and concerns about a proposed regulation. The federal agencies that drafted the proposed rule are then required to review those concerns and address them in the final version of the regulation before it can be implemented. 

But federal officials didn’t allow the public enough time to comment on the asylum ban  — it took effect the day it was announced, which ultimately led to its repeal