A federal appeals court on Monday blocked a Trump administration rule that dramatically limits the ability of Central American migrants to claim asylum in the US – the second court move against the rule in less than a week.
The regulation at the core of the lawsuit prohibits migrants who have resided in or traveled through third countries from seeking asylum in the US, which bars people traveling through Mexico from being able to claim asylum.
The ruling from the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals has no immediate effect, since the rule has already been blocked and as a result is no longer in effect following the separate ruling last week. The 9th Circuit had initially allowed the rule to go forward except as it applied to California and Arizona, two border states that fall under the 9th Circuit’s jurisdiction.
The Trump administration, which has tried to clamp down on asylum, argued the regulation was necessary to curb asylum claims at the border. Immigrant advocates immediately challenged the rule, which ultimately made its way up to the Supreme Court.
The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals found that the rule “does virtually nothing to ensure that a third country is a safe option” and is a strain on organization resources.
“The appeals court ruled on much broader grounds than the DC District Court which found a procedural violation. The appeals court stated that the rule was flat out unlawful because if flouted the federal statutes Congress enacted to protect asylum seekers and because it was arbitrary,” said Lee Gelernt, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union.
Judge Timothy Kelly, a Trump appointee at the US District Court for the District of Columbia, had similarly sided with the plaintiffs last Tuesday, saying that they will expend more resources and face more difficulties in representing clients for which the rule applies.
Kelly also noted that new coronavirus restrictions on the border largely bar migrants from entering the US, so the court action will not lead to “disruptive consequences.”
“Indeed, that recent pandemic-related administrative action appears to have effectively closed the southern border indefinitely to aliens seeking asylum only underscores that vacatur of the Rule will not result in prohibitively disruptive consequences,” Kelly wrote.
Shortly after, asylum officers at US Citizenship and Immigration Services, the federal agency responsible for the US legal immigration system, were told that “effective immediately” the third-country transit ban no longer applied, according to a source familiar with the guidance.
Officers were instructed to revert to processes in effect before the ban was implemented in July 2019. The transit bar to asylum “shall no longer apply to any alien,” according to the source.