The Supreme Court will allow the Trump administration to fully enforce a new policy aimed at curbing Central American migrants’ ability to claim asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border, handing a victory to President Trump in his efforts to crack down on illegal immigration.
The Supreme Court’s decision came down Wednesday evening, with Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor dissenting. The high court lifted a lower court order that blocked the Trump administration from broadly enforcing the new rule for asylum-seekers, under which migrants arriving at the southern border are ineligible for asylum unless they have sought refugee status in one of the countries they traveled through first.
The ruling allows the Trump administration to require immigrants seeking asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border to apply for asylum first in countries they are traveling through to get to the United States, with a few exceptions, while litigation continues.
A federal district judge in San Francisco issued a nationwide injunction in July that stopped the restrictions from taking effect, but the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals narrowed the injunction last month to apply only within states covered by the 9th Circuit, including the border states of California and Arizona.
The 9th Circuit’s ruling gave the Trump administration a partial victory, as federal immigration authorities appeared to be given the green light to enforce the restrictions in New Mexico and Texas. But U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar again blocked the policy nationwide in September, and on Tuesday night, the 9th Circuit again halted Tigar’s nationwide injunction.
Unveiled July 15, the rule from the departments of Homeland Security and Justice places sharp restrictions on migrants from Central America who seek asylum protections at the U.S.-Mexico border.
The rule brought a challenge from a coalition of immigrant rights groups, which are represented by the American Civil Liberties Union.
The Trump administration asked the Supreme Court last month to green light enforcement of the rules nationwide while litigation continues and said the lower court’s injunction “frustrates the government’s strong interest in a well-functioning asylum system” and hinders the Trump administration’s ability to address the crisis at the southern border.
The rule, Solicitor General Noel Francisco told the high court, “alleviates a crushing burden on the U.S. asylum system by prioritizing asylum seekers who most need asylum in the United States.”
In an opinion dissenting from the grant of stay, Sotomayor said the rule from the Trump administration may be “in significant tension with the asylum statute.”
“It may also be arbitrary and capricious for failing to engage with the record evidence contradicting its conclusions. It is especially concerning, moreover, that the rule the Government promulgated topples decades of settled asylum practices and affects some of the most vulnerable people in the Western Hemisphere—without affording the public a chance to weigh in,” Sotomayor, who was joined by Ginsburg, wrote.
The president, however, cheered the order from the high court, calling it a “win for the border on asylum.”
Trump has made stemming the flow of migrants crossing the southern border a central focus of his administration, though he has seen mixed results in the courts.
In December, Chief Justice John Roberts joined the court’s liberal justices in rejecting a request from the Trump administration to enforce a policy that deemed migrants who did not present themselves at a port of entry along the southern border ineligible for asylum.
But in July, the Supreme Court said the Trump administration could begin using $2.5 billion in funds from the Defense Department for construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. The president vowed to build a wall along the southern border during his 2016 presidential campaign and circumvented Congress this year to divert billions for construction of the barrier.