On November 9, Donald Trump tried to rewrite the asylum laws by disqualifying from qualification for asylum anyone who entered the United States without authorization. Over night, a Federal District Court in California issued a restraining order blocking that new policy. As the court points out at the very beginning of its decision, “Congress has clearly commanded in the INA [Immigration and Nationality Act] that any alien who arrives in the United States, irrespective of that alien’s status, may apply for asylum – ‘whether or not at a designated port of arrival.’” Trump’s policy was issued, wrote the court, “Notwithstanding this clear command” of the law.
The new Trump bar on applying for asylum, the court said, “irreconcilably conflicts with the INA and the expressed intent of Congress.” The law clearly states that the manner of entry of an asylum seeker does not bar him or her from applying for asylum. “Whatever the scope of the president’s authority, he may not rewrite the immigration laws to impose a condition that Congress has expressly forbidden,” the judge wrote.
While the Trump administration has said that those seeking asylum must do so by presenting themselves at Ports of Entry, recent reports indicate that the Border Patrol stations at those ports have often been closed to those seeking asylum. So, while Donald Trump claims that he is trying to create a more orderly process for asylum, in fact he is trying to keep people fleeing harm from applying for asylum.
District Court Judge Jon Tigar’s Temporary Restraining Order applies nationally and will remain in effect until December 19, by which time a fuller hearing may be held.
You can read the court’s decision here.