President Donald Trump’s attempt to restrict asylum for immigrants who enter the US illegally has been shot down by a US district judge in San Francisco, clearing the way for members of the migrant caravan to seek asylum in the US.
Trump tried to restrict asylum rules in a proclamation on November 9, citing national security concerns and stresses on the immigration and asylum systems that stall applications.
Senior administration officials told reporters at the time of the proclamation that the asylum system was backlogged with roughly 800,000 cases and in a “full-fledged and very large crisis.”
Before the midterm elections, Trump campaigned hard against allowing the migrants in the caravan to seek asylum in the US, often claiming without evidence that the caravan contained large numbers of criminals and even terrorists.
Since the November 6 midterms, Trump has made little mention of the caravan outside the proclamation.
Current law allows for anyone, regardless of how they enter the country, to apply for asylum in the US, which can lead to eventual citizenship.
Those seeking asylum in the US must prove that they legitimately fear persecution based on their race, nationality, religion, politics, or social group either from the government or forces the government cannot control in their home country.
The migrants in the caravan have fled Central American countries including Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador, which suffer from extremely concentrated violence their governments have failed to rein in.
But Trump’s demand that asylum seekers from the caravan must enter the US through one of 26 legal ports didn’t sway the district court.
“Whatever the scope of the president’s authority, he may not rewrite the immigration laws to impose a condition that Congress has expressly forbidden,” Judge Jon S. Tigar wrote in his decision against Trump, The Washington Post noted.
“Failure to comply with entry requirements such as arriving at a designated port of entry should bear little, if any, weight in the asylum process.”
The US is part of United Nations compacts, and has laws passed by Congress, that guarantee the right of migrants to seek refugee status or asylum.
Trump’s order would render those crossing the border illegally unable to seek asylum, thereby effectively waiving their rights, the judge ruled.
The White House usually appeals losses in court like this. While courts have knocked back much of Trump’s immigration agenda, his travel ban was eventually upheld by the Supreme Court after some modification.