It took less than a day for a federal judge in San Francisco to issue an injunction against the Trump administration, temporarily suspending the administration's policy of denying asylum to migrants caught crossing the southern border illegally. District Judge Jon S. Tigar heard oral arguments on Monday and issued his injunction late that night.
The swift timeframe mirrored the court case's inception. Earlier this month, when President Donald Trump signed a proclamation blocking any migrant caught crossing the southern border from claiming asylum, multiple civil rights groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, filed a lawsuit within hours.
As Pacific Standard reported, the ACLU's argument rested on an interpretation of congressional intent:
Existing U.S. law allows for any foreigner currently in the country to claim asylum—the right to stay in the U.S. because returning to one's place of origin would lead directly to persecution or other dangers. Federal law states that "[a]ny alien who is physically present in the United States or who arrives in the United States" can claim asylum. However, with the new proclamation, the Trump administration limits where individuals can seek asylum to official ports of entry on the border.
In court on Monday, Lee Gelernt, an attorney for the ACLU, argued that federal law explicitly states than anyone "physically present" on U.S. soil or on the border can claim asylum, regardless of whether or not the asylum seeker is at an official port of entry.
"There is no justifiable reason to flatly deny people the right to apply for asylum, and we cannot send them back to danger based on the manner of their entry. Congress has been clear on this point for decades," Gelernt said in a statement released by the ACLU.
As Pacific Standard has reported, official points of entry along the border are dealing with massive backlogs and bureaucratic delay:
Besides the ACLU's argument that constraining asylum seekers to official ports of entry is illegal, there is a bevy of evidence that ports of entry are currently overwhelmed (even though immigration across the southern border is at historically low levels).
The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, or RAICES, has accused Trump of using his proclamation to purposely add stress to official ports of entry, tweeting that the president was "clogging an intentionally slow-moving bureaucracy to disincentivize legal asylum seekers & immigrants."
Spokespeople for the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Justice (DOJ) called the asylum system "broken," and said it was "being abused by tens of thousands of meritless claims" each year.
"It is absurd that a set of advocacy groups can be found to have standing to sue to stop the entire federal government from acting so that illegal aliens can receive a government benefit to which they are not entitled," DHS spokesperson Katie Waldeman and DOJ spokesperson Steven Stafford said in a statement.