A San Francisco federal judge blocks the policy of Pres. Trump to impose an automatic asylum ban to migrants who illegally enter the U.S. from Mexico. While it is only a temporary restraining order, it puts a stop to Trump’s attempt to revise the U.S. immigration laws.
U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California judge, Jon S. Tigar, stated that while the president is granted authority as the leading official of the country, it is not for him to rewrite the immigration laws and enforce a condition that is specifically forbidden by the U.S. Congress.
A controversial policy
On November 9 the White House announced a policy whereby illegal immigrants are barred from seeking asylum if they fail to enter the United States at a legal checkpoint. The policy expressly targets those immigrants that illegally entered the U.S. from Mexico, which, according to the federal judge, provides irreconcilable conflicts with the country’s immigration law, which is not the intention of Congress.
Watch Pres. Trump’s announcement video below:
The order of Judge Tigar, issued on Monday, November 19, overturned the November 9 policy ordered by the president that was to take effect the following day.
Several suits against the administration were filed in California’s Northern District a few hours after the White House made the announcement on Friday by several immigrant advocacy groups and American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) attorneys. According to ACLU, the latest immigration policy of Pres. Trump grossly ignores a Congress-enacted law and tries to bypass the required procedures on the issuance of such laws.
The judge further added that the new policy of the Trump administration, if allowed to be implemented, puts the asylum seekers under more stressful situations, including violence, at the U.S. – Mexico border.
The restraining order issued by Judge Tigar will cover the entire nation and effective until December 19. After the deadline, the judge may either extend it or schedule a new hearing.
The lawsuit and the ruling were deemed absurd by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The Justice Department and the DHS, through their spokespersons, Steven Stafford and Katie Waldman, respectively, said in a joint statement that they find it absurd that advocacy groups have the power to stop the government from exercising its right to prevent illegal immigrants from getting benefits from the government that they are not legally entitled to receive.
Implications of the court ruling
Pres. Trump has already sent a large number of troops at the border between the United States and Mexico. The question now is what will happen in the interim while the temporary restraining order is in effect. It’s a fact that there are some asylum seekers who are allowed to live in the U.S. while most of them are placed in detention centers while their applications are being processed.
Numerous groups of immigrants who are seeking asylum are already at the border. The latest count said that in recent days, there were over 2,000 migrants from Central America in Tijuana. In Mexicali, which is another border city in Mexico, nearly 3,000 migrants have arrived, according to Francesca Fontanini, a spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
Officials from the Trump administration stand firm on their claim that they issued the new policy because there is already a crisis at the U.S. border with Mexico and asylum claims are being abused.
It’s a victory from the advocacy groups because they believe that it is illegal to block individuals or families from seeking asylum depending on how they entered the United States. They said that the Administrative Procedure Act was violated by the administration because there was no prior public announcement about the new policy regarding asylum seekers. ACLU said that there flatly denying people to apply for asylum is not justified. These people should not be endangered further by sending them back.
The asylum process in the U.S.
The U.S. is one of the signatories to the 1967 Protocol and according to this and the immigration law of the country, it is legally obligated to grant asylum to persons who seek protection from persecution in their home country provided they meet the requirements of the international law on the definition of being a refugee.
Seeking asylum is a lengthy and complex process that is handled by several agencies of the U.S. government. A person granted asylum in the U.S. has the chance to live in the country permanently and receive specific benefits. They may also get the opportunity to have their family members join them in the U.S.
By definition, according to The United Nations 1951 Convention and 1967 Protocol, a person can be called a refugee if he or she is unwilling or unable to go back to his orher own country because of the following:
- Failure of the country to protect its citizen.
- The citizen fears persecution for past, present or future issues due to political views, membership in a specific social group, nationality, religion or race.
This definition is included by Congress in the Refugee Act of 1980 of the U.S. immigration law.
The process of asylum application in the U.S.
A person can apply for asylum either through the defensive process or the affirmative process. In the defensive process, the asylum seeker entered the country without inspection or arrived at a port of entry in the U.S. In the affirmative process, the asylum seeker is not included in the removal proceedings. He or she can apply through the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). If the USCIS does not grant approval and the applicant likewise is not a legal immigrant, he or she can be referred to the removal proceedings where the applicant can make a new request for asylum via the defensive process. In both processes, the person seeking asylum should be in the United States.
When they are referred to the immigration court, the asylum seekers do not have access to a court-appointed counsel. They have to provide concrete evidence that they were persecuted in their home country in the past or that they will be persecuted in the future if they return to their country.
Other factors affect their chances for asylum, such as their failure to process their application within one year after entering the country. If they are deemed dangerous to the U.S., they cannot apply for asylum.
The current situation
Pres. Trump says that the policy was based on the reports that large and organized groups of people are traveling to Mexico to try to enter the United States unlawfully and apply for asylum.
Advocacy groups supporting immigrant rights say that it is illegal for the administration to stop people from seeking asylum in the U.S. because of their choice of port of entry. Based on the new immigration policy issued early this month, only those who enter at the designated legal ports of entry are allowed to join in the orderly processing of asylum seekers. However, those who will enter through the southern border will be denied entry.
While the restraining order is in place, asylum seekers will be facing more hardships as they wait to be included in the list. Mexico, which is the southern border, where the asylum seekers banned from entering the U.S. are held, said that they are providing aid to over 5,600 migrants in Mexicali and Tijuana. These migrants made the trek from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.
In another development related to this big issue, Mexico officials denied that Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the incoming Mexican president, entered a deal, called Remain in Mexico, with the U.S. government. Reportedly, the deal is about the holding of the migrants in their country. The report said Mexico entered a deal with the Trump administration to act as temporary host for the asylum seekers as their papers are being processed.
An incoming undersecretary in the Mexican Interior Ministry, Zoé Robledo, said that what they are doing right now is to provide the migrants with a safe place to stay if they do not want to go back to their home country.
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