SCOTUS Allows Trump Admin To Impose Harsh Requirement On Asylum Seekers

Clay Curtis
September 13, 2019

The US Supreme Court ruled to allow the Trump administration to fully enforce a new policy that prevents most immigrants from applying for asylum at the US-Mexico border.

"The United States is the only option", Dunea Romero, a 31-year-old Honduran, lamented with tears in her eyes at a shelter in Tijuana. Nicaraguans and Venezuelans fleeing repression. With measures like this, he said, the Trump administration "is depriving us of the opportunity to be safe".

The American Civil Liberties Union and others who challenged the administration's policy in federal court said it violates United States immigration law and accused the administration of failing to follow the correct legal process in issuing the rule, which was unveiled on July 15.

It is largely aimed at the surge in migrants from Central America - more than 400,000 so far this fiscal year - who have tried to enter the USA after crossing Mexico.

Customs and Border Protection officers process immigrants, some seeking asylum, at the San Ysidro, California, border crossing in this November photo.

"We have seen outbreaks of acts of xenophobia in Mexico that did not exist before, mainly in the north of the country", said Israel Ibarra, an immigration expert with the Continente Movil consultancy in Tijuana. Violence there has soared to the highest levels in more than two decades.

Democrats said the ruling puts people's lives at risk.

"Part of why Sotomayor and Ginsburg voted to dissent is that on the merits, the district court might have got this one right", Stephen Vladeck, a law professor at the University of Texas at Austin, told me.

"Our policy of refuge, of asylum is a tradition in Mexico", he said.

He had applied for asylum in Mexico during a previous trek, and was rejected.

"Mexico's objective would be to freeze arms traffic at the border", he said.

Advocates said Thursday they intend to take him up on it.

SCOTUS Allows Trump Admin To Impose Harsh Requirement On Asylum Seekers

It's been documented that most of the people crossing the southern US border are Central Americans fleeing violence and poverty in their home countries. It represents the latest effort by Trump's administration to crack down on immigration, a signature issue during his presidency and 2020 re-election bid. "This rule will result in those fleeing fear and persecution to be turned away at our doorstep and will only exacerbate the humanitarian crisis in the region", House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler and Zoe Lofgren, who chairs the immigration and citizenship subcommittee, said in a joint statement. That provision sends those applying for asylum in the United States back to Mexico to await their hearings. Its migrant detention facilities can be overcrowded, unsafe and unsanitary.

Everyone at our border, except Mexican nationals, will be barred from safety.

Rather than changing its haphazard and cruel policy, the administration asked the court to let the policy take effect anyway while the lower courts sort it out.

The Mexican president, Andres Manuel Obrador, earlier on Wednesday posted an image of himself on the phone to President Trump, who said they had had "an excellent telephone conversation".

The Trump administration says the policy is created to address deficiencies in an immigration system in which immigrants often pass initial asylum screening but fail to win final approval.

Now, with the Supreme Court allowing the asylum rule to go into effect, some feel the United States got what it wanted anyway - without the other countries' consent.

Morgan said the Trump administration is "doing everything that they can" to address what he described as the crisis on the USA border with Mexico.

The third-country rule functionally bars migrants from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador from asking for asylum.

Many asylum seekers denied refuge under the new policy will be placed in fast-track deportation proceedings and flown to their home countries at USA expense, authorities said.

Sotomayor's dissent says the district court ruling "warrants respect", and, crucially, cites that aspect of it. Sotomayor agrees the rule may be "arbitrary and capricious for failing to engage" with "evidence contradicting its conclusions", adding that it's "especially concerning", because this will impact "some of the most vulnerable people in the Western Hemisphere".

It's in line with the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. To qualify, the applicant must show a probability of being persecuted back home that is greater than 50%. "Those without lawyers are being asked to meet a standard nearly impossible for someone uneducated in asylum law to meet".

Supreme Court allows broad enforcement of Trump asylum rule
That left the administration free to enforce the policy on asylum seekers arriving in New Mexico and Texas. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor dissented.

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