Illegal Immigrants May Still Seek Asylum, Judge Says

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To fire up his anti-immigrant base of supporters before the election, President Donald Trump announced he was issuing an extensive executive order requiring asylum-seekers to present themselves at a port of entry.

He also said that he would hold the Central American refugees in tent cities while their legal cases are being heard, which could take several months or longer.

And true to his word, after the election, on November 9, Trump did issue such an order.

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But all of Trump’s plans are crashing and burning as a federal judge on Monday said his executive order could not be enforced. This means the Trump administration is no longer able to refuse asylum to immigrants crossing the southern border illegally.

After hearing arguments from both sides U.S. District Judge Jon S. Tigar issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) on Monday in San Francisco.

The legal action seeking the TRO was brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Center for Constitutional Rights. The organizations sued the federal government after Trump issued his order in response to the highly-publicized caravans of migrants coming to the U.S. from Central America, walking through Mexico.

Trump’s November 9 proclamation said anyone who crossed the southern border would be ineligible for asylum. This new rule makes it harder to avoid deportation, since those seeking asylum are allowed to remain in the U.S. while their cases are pending. This would affect thousands of people who enter the U.S. seeking asylum.

“Individuals are entitled to asylum if they cross between ports of entry,” said Baher Azmy, a lawyer for the Center for Constitutional Rights. “It couldn’t be clearer.”

The Trump administration wants asylum seekers to arrive only at an official border crossing. But many border crossings such as San Ysidro already have long wait times and thus many asylum seekers have been avoiding them. The migrants are forced to wait in temporary shelters or outdoor camps on the Mexican side, sometimes for weeks or even months.

ACLU lawyer Lee Gelernt said that some people cross between official ports because “they’re in real danger” and cannot remain in Mexico.

“We don’t condone people entering between ports of entry, but Congress has made the decision that if they do, they still need to be allowed to apply for asylum,” Gelernt said.