A federal judge barred the Trump administration from refusing asylum to immigrants who cross the southern border illegally, meant to deter the mass caravan heading north from Central America.
President Donald Trump issued a proclamation on Nov. 9 that said anyone who crossed the southern border not at official ports of entry would be ineligible for asylum. As the first of several caravans of illegal migrants have started arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border, Trump said an asylum ban was necessary to stop what he’s called a national security threat.
But in his ruling Monday, U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar agreed with liberal legal groups that sued the administration, arguing that U.S. immigration law clearly allows someone to seek asylum even if they enter the country between official ports of entry.
“Whatever the scope of the President’s authority, he may not rewrite the immigration laws to impose a condition that Congress has expressly forbidden,” said Tigar, a nominee of former President Barack Obama.
The Department of Homeland Security did not immediately comment on the ruling, which will remain in effect for one month barring an appeal. In issuing the ban, Trump used the same powers he used last year to impose a travel ban that was ultimately upheld by the Supreme Court.
If enforced, the ban would potentially make it harder for thousands of illegal immigrants to use legal loopholes to avoid deportation. DHS estimates around 70,000 people a year claim asylum between official ports of entry. But Tigar’s ruling notes that federal law says someone may seek asylum if they have arrived in the United States, “whether or not at a designated port of arrival.”
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Around 3,000 people from the first of the caravans have arrived in Tijuana, Mexico, across the border from San Diego, California.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection said Monday that it closed off northbound traffic for several hours at the San Ysidro crossing. It has also installed movable, wire-topped barriers, apparently to stop a potential mass rush of people.
As of Monday, 107 people detained between official crossings have sought asylum since Trump’s order went into effect, according to DHS, which oversees Customs and Border Protection. Officials didn’t say whether those people’s cases were still progressing through other, more difficult avenues left to them after the proclamation.
DHS has said it wants asylum seekers at the southern border to appear at an official border crossing.
The Associated Press contributed to this article