Federal judge blocks New Asylum Policy

Immigrant advocacy groups raised objections and challenged the administration's decision to significantly restrict the eligibility criteria for applying for asylum in the United States. They argued against the limitations imposed on individuals seeking asylum, expressing concerns about the potential impact on vulnerable populations and the right to seek refuge in the country.

7/26/20233 min read

A federal judge has ruled against a strict new asylum policy that the Biden administration had deemed essential to its efforts in reducing illegal border crossings along the U.S.-Mexico border. The judge's decision means that the policy, which aimed to limit asylum applications, will not be implemented as planned.

The ruling was a setback for the White House, as it has witnessed a significant decrease in illegal entries since the implementation of the new asylum policy in May. However, it's worth noting that the decline in crossings is influenced by various factors, not solely the policy itself. The impact of the court ruling on migration remains uncertain if it stands.

Judge Jon S. Tigar of the U.S. District Court in Northern California granted the ruling but temporarily suspended its effect for 14 days. This means that the asylum policy will continue to be in place during this period while the federal government appeals the decision. The appellate court could also choose to extend the suspension while it reviews the challenge further.

Under the policy, individuals are generally ineligible to apply for asylum in the United States if they have entered the country without either obtaining an appointment at an official port of entry or demonstrating that they sought legal protection in another country during their journey. This stringent requirement disqualifies most people who have not followed these specific procedures from seeking asylum in the United States.

In a 35-page ruling, Judge Tigar declared the policy, which had been in effect since May 12, as "both substantively and procedurally invalid." He pointed out that in 2019, he had also struck down a similar rule that was implemented by the Trump administration. This indicates a consistency in his approach to similar asylum policies and highlights his decision to invalidate the current policy as well.

"The court concludes that the rule is contrary to law because it presumes ineligible for asylum noncitizens who enter between ports of entry, using a manner of entry that Congress expressly intended should not affect access to asylum,” the judge wrote.

Indeed, the situation on the southern border has seen notable changes in recent months. Mexican authorities have increased their efforts to prevent migrants from reaching the United States by taking more actions to turn them back. Additionally, the U.S. government introduced a new app this year, which has helped create a more organized and structured process for individuals seeking asylum to be processed into the United States at the southern border. These developments have contributed to a shift in the migration patterns and the way asylum seekers are managed at the border.

Civil rights groups praised the judge's decision to strike down the asylum policy. However, they also expressed concern that migrants would still be at risk as long as the rule remained in effect during the appeals process. Despite the ruling, the vulnerability of migrants attempting to seek asylum in the United States persists as the policy continues to have an impact until any further legal actions are taken. These groups advocate for more comprehensive and humane measures to address the needs and rights of asylum seekers at the U.S.-Mexico border.

“The ruling is a victory, but each day the Biden administration prolongs the fight over its illegal ban, many people fleeing persecution and seeking safe harbor for their families are instead left in grave danger,” Katrina Eiland, deputy director of the Immigrants’ Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union, who argued the case for the plaintiffs, said in a statement.

The Homeland Security secretary, Alejandro N. Mayorkas, said the administration strongly disagreed with the decision. With the policy still in place while the decision is appealed, he added, migrants who did not follow the current rule would face stiff consequences.

The end of Title 42, a public health measure implemented during the Trump administration to restrict migrants' entry at the border due to COVID-19, led to predictions, including from the Biden administration, of a potential surge in border crossings. However, even before Title 42 was lifted, there had already been an increase in border crossings in the preceding weeks. Surprisingly, after the end of Title 42, there was a noticeable decline in crossings, contrary to the expected surge. This unexpected trend has raised questions about the complex factors influencing migration patterns and highlights the unpredictability of migration flows.