Since he took office, courts across the country have been preventing President Trump from enforcing most of his more aggressive immigration and asylum restrictions. Until now. But the Trump administration was handed a partial win this month from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
President Trump’s most recent executive order was blocked in July by the United States District Court, but after review from the Court of Appeals, that block has been partially lifted. Trump’s new rule seeks to prohibit immigrants from applying for asylum in the United States if they passed through a country other than their country of origin on their way to the United States. Last week, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the injunction against that new rule that was imposed by the U.S. District Court was valid but only for those states under their jurisdiction.
The Rule Itself
For clarity’s sake, let’s look at an immigrant from Nicaragua as an example. If you live in Nicaragua, and you set off on foot to the United States, you would pass through Honduras, Guatemala, and Mexico before reaching the United States. Under Trump’s rule, you would have to apply for and be denied asylum in each of those countries to be allowed to apply for asylum in the United States.
Court of Appeals’ Ruling
On July 16, 2019, almost immediately after Trump announced his new rule, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court to challenge its legality. On July 24, 2019, Judge Jon Tigar of the U.S. District Court in San Francisco, in response to the ACLU’s lawsuit, issued a nationwide preliminary injunction against the rule stating that procedures to enact such a rule had likely been violated. Judge Tigar issued the injunction in order to stop the policy from being enforced while the court battle continued.
Last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit agreed (in a 2-1 vote) with Judge Tigar. However, the panel stated that Tigar did not give a valid reason for why the injunction should be applied nationwide. So, the Court of Appeals stated that the injunction could only apply to those states that fall within its direct jurisdiction. Thus, any states that borders Mexico that is not under the jurisdiction of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, can enforce Trump’s new restriction on asylum claims.
Four states in the southwest share a border with Mexico: California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. Only two of those states – California and Arizona – fall under the jurisdiction of 9th Circuit. So, the administration is free to enforce the new ban on asylum claims from those migrants who pass through other countries on their way to the United States – but only in Texas and New Mexico. Since California and Arizona remain subject to the injunction, the Trump administration must allow immigrants to apply for asylum regardless of how many countries they traversed on their journey.
The Battle Continues
While the Trump Administration was given a partial victory in the Court of Appeals’ ruling, the American Civil Liberties Union vows to provide more evidence as to why the injunction should be applied nationwide and continue its goal of having the new rule struck down permanently.