Once again, the federal district courts of Northern California are stymieing President Trump's immigration agenda. This time, a San Francisco judge who was nominated to the bench by Obama has blocked President Trump from enforcing a new rule that would dramatically limit the number of migrants allowed to apply for asylum at the southern border.
Judge Jon Tigar issued a preliminary injunction blocking the rule, which would require asylum seekers to first pursue an asylum claim in a third country (and presumably be denied) before they can pursue asylum in the US. The rule would effectively force migrants from Central America to seek protection in Mexico before they can apply for asylum in the US. Earlier in the day, Washington DC district judge Timothy Kelly issued a different ruling where he declined to block the rule in a separate lawsuit brought by pro-immigration groups. But Tigar's decision supersedes Kelly's, Reuters reports.
Immigrants waiting to apply for asylum in Mexico
Tigar's ruling doesn't kill the Trump Administration's rule outright - it's simply suspended pending future rulings by succeeding federal judges. Much of the administration's immigration agenda is still tied up in the courts.
While Trump and his administration were quick to celebrate Kelly's decision, immigration groups and other groups like the SPLC that are challenging the ban praised Tigar's ruling.
"Today’s ruling is an important victory for incredibly vulnerable individuals and families," said Melissa Crow, an attorney from the Southern Poverty Law Center - one of the groups challenging the ban - in a statement.
The Trump Administration believes most of the asylum claims being made at the southern border are illegitimate, and that families use asylum as a way to gain entry to the country - then they disappear after they're released to await their first immigration hearing. The vast majority - some 90% - never show up.
During a hour-long hearing on Wednesday, Tigar said he was struck by the dangers faced by people passing through Mexico - repudiating the Trump Administration's argument that Mexico should be considered a 'safe haven'
"The administrative record about the dangers faced by persons transiting through Mexico and the inadequacy of the asylum system there ... is stunning," Tigar said from bench.
This isn't the first Trump immigration rule that Tigar has blocked. In November, he struck down a different asylum ban that attempted to stop all migrants crossing illegally into the US. But Trump has been ramping up his immigration policy efforts as the crisis at the border rages and immigration looks like it will be a critical factor in the 2020 race. Last week, the administration introduced another rule that would expedite deportations for immigrants who have crossed illegally into the US over the last two years.
While Trump's efforts in the courts haven't always succeeded, so far at least, they've done better than ICE's attempts to round up immigrants targeted for deportation.