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Judge reimposes nationwide injunction against Trump’s asylum rules

Migrants walk along a border wall near El Paso.
Migrants walk along a border wall near El Paso. (Christian Chavez/AP)

A federal judge in California on Monday reimposed a nationwide injunction against President Trump’s policy denying asylum to almost all who enter the country after passing through Mexico or a third country.

U.S. District Judge Jon S. Tigar of Oakland said the policy could not be implemented anywhere along the southern border while a legal battle over it proceeds. The Trump administration announced on July 16 a change that denies asylum in the United States to those who pass through other countries without seeking asylum there.

The Supreme Court is considering a request by the administration to allow the new restriction.

The White House issued a statement Monday expressing eagerness for the high court to weigh in.

“Immigration and border security policy cannot be run by any single district court judge who decides to issue a nationwide injunction,” the statement says. “This ruling is a gift to human smugglers and traffickers and undermines the rule of law.”

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Tigar, an Obama administration appointee in the Northern District of California, had once before imposed a nationwide injunction. But a U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit panel said the four immigrant-rights organizations challenging the restriction had not presented enough evidence to warrant a nationwide injunction.

The panel said the injunction should apply only in the border states within the 9th Circuit, California and Arizona. That removed the restriction in Texas and New Mexico. A U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the matter’s sensitivity, said the new rule is being applied along the border in those states.

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Tigar said he interpreted the 9th Circuit’s ruling to mean he was free to reimpose the nationwide injunction if there was evidence to warrant it. Because some of the organizations have clients outside the 9th Circuit, he said, only a nationwide injunction would supply the relief to which they were entitled.

Groups challenging the asylum rules change say it upends, without congressional approval, a 40-year-old policy of considering asylum for those who can show they faced persecution or violence in their home countries.

But the Trump administration contends Congress gave the departments of Justice and Homeland Security authority to impose restrictions on asylum seekers beyond those in federal law. Solicitor General Noel J. Francisco told the Supreme Court that the new requirement “alleviates a crushing burden on the U.S. asylum system by prioritizing asylum seekers who most need asylum in the United States.”

Nick Miroff contributed to this report.