US judge blocks Trump’s asylum rules


PHOENIX – A US judge blocked the Trump administration’s most extensive asylum restrictions on Friday less than two weeks before President-elect Joe Biden took office.

The rules should go into effect on Monday. The court order has limited immediate impact as the government largely suspended asylum on the U.S.-Mexico border during the coronavirus pandemic, citing public health concerns.

Some, who can still apply for asylum and who would make it much more difficult for all asylum seekers if the pandemic-related measures were lifted, would still have thought it possible for the rules to come into force.

President Donald Trump’s administration argued that the measures were an appropriate response to a system full of abuse and unworthy allegations.

They wanted to redefine how people are entitled to asylum and similar forms of humanitarian protection if they are persecuted at home. The restrictions would have expanded the grounds for a judge to view asylum applications as “frivolous” and forbid applicants to ever gain protection in the US.

US District Judge James Donato in San Francisco joined the sued interest groups, saying the incumbent Secretary of Homeland Security, Chad Wolf, had no power to enforce the comprehensive rules.

Donato, who was appointed to the bank by President Barack Obama in 2013, wrote that Wolf’s appointment violated a fixed order of succession. He said it was the fifth time a court had ruled against Homeland Security on the same grounds.

“The government has recycled exactly the same legal and factual claims made in previous cases, as if they had not been reasonably dismissed in reasoned submissions from multiple courts,” Donato wrote. “This is a problematic process strategy. In fact, the government keeps crashing the same car into a gate, hoping that one day it could break through. “

Donato said his ruling was applicable nationwide because limiting its scope “would result in a fragmented and disjointed patchwork of immigration policy.”

It wasn’t immediately clear whether the Trump administration would put in an 911 call. The Justice Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment late Friday.

Aaron Frankel, an attorney for plaintiffs, has described the rules as “nothing less than an attempt to end the asylum system”.

Asylum is a legal protection for people who flee persecution because of their race, religion, nationality, political convictions or belonging to a social group. Any alien entering US soil has a legal right to apply for asylum under the US Asylum Act and international obligations.

The rules would limit the types of persecution and the severity of threats for which asylum is granted. Applicants seeking protection based on gender or who claim to have been attacked by gangs, “rogue” government officials or “non-governmental organizations” are unlikely to have an application for asylum.

Immigration judges would be instructed to be more selective in granting asylum applications and reject most applications without trial.

They would also have weighed several new factors against an applicant’s ability to gain protection, including failure to pay taxes. Criminal records would still hold against an asylum seeker even if their convictions were overturned.

According to the pandemic-related measures that have been in place since March, around nine out of ten people stopped at the border are expelled immediately for reasons of public health. The rest is processed according to the immigration laws, which also include the right of asylum.

Donato questioned how people came to head the Department of Homeland Security. Wolf became acting secretary in November 2019, replacing Kevin McAleenan, who also played an acting role. The courts have ruled that Wolf wrongly jumped to the top from his position as Undersecretary of State for Strategy, Politics and Plans.

Donato said, along with other judges, that McAleenan, the Customs and Border Protection Commissioner, had also been promoted out of service to the top division of Homeland Security, so his handover to Wolf “had no legal implications.”

Since Kirstjen Nielsen resigned in April 2019, the Homeland Security Department no longer has a secretary confirmed by the Senate.

While facing legal backlash, the Trump administration has already put in place a number of asylum restriction policies, including waiting for asylum seekers in Mexico while their claims are being tried in a U.S. court.

Biden is expected to reverse some of Trump’s restrictive asylum measures, including the “stay in Mexico” policy. Recently, however, he said that it would take his government “likely the next six months” to restore a system that can handle asylum seekers to prevent a flood of migrants on the southern border.

Also on Friday, the U.S. 4th Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia ruled against the government’s policy of giving state and local governments the right to refuse to relocate refugees.

The three-judge panel said Trump’s executive order requiring both state and local agencies to give their consent before refugees can be brought into their areas would undermine the 1980 Refugee Act. This law, enacted by Congress, should allow resettlement agencies to find the best place for a person to thrive while working with local and state officials.

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