Trump moves to sharply restrict asylum claims at U.S. border
WASHINGTON — The Trump administration announced a major new effort to restrict people from claiming asylum at the U.S. border, setting up a legal battle over the president’s authority over immigration.
The announcement Thursday came only hours after the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against President Donald Trump in another high-profile immigration dispute — this one involving treatment of the so-called Dreamers, young people brought to the U.S. illegally as children.
Immigrant rights groups promised to challenge the new asylum rules as soon as they go into effect, calling them a clear violation of U.S. law.
Administration officials expect both cases to be headed to the Supreme Court this spring. That would test the willingness of the court’s newly reinforced conservative majority to back up the president on his signature issue.
The new asylum rules, the latest salvo in Trump’s effort to shut off the flow of people, mostly from Central America, crossing into the United States from Mexico, aims to bar ten of thousands of claims for refuge filed each year.
The rules would seek to deny asylum to the vast majority of those who cross the border illegally rather than at a designated port of entry.
Roughly 97,000 people in the fiscal year ended Sept. 30 claimed they had a “credible fear of persecution” — the legal test for asylum — and surrendered to the Border Patrol, according to government statistics. Most entered illegally, rather than at the official entry ports, which in the last year have often had huge backlogs.
Although most eventually lose their asylum claims and are deported, about 6,000 people in the last year won asylum cases.
The 9th Circuit ruling involves the fate of nearly 700,000 young people who have been shielded from deportation by an Obama-era program known as DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.
Trump has been trying for more than a year to end DACA, despite claiming sympathy for the young people involved. He has repeatedly been stymied in court. The latest ruling marked the first time an appeals court has ruled on the issue.
The 3-0 ruling, in a case brought by the University of California on behalf of students covered by DACA, upheld a decision by a federal judge in San Francisco that in January halted Trump’s order. Issuing a nationwide decree, the judge said the president and his top advisers failed to set out a legitimate reason for revoking the Dreamers’ shield.
In his announcement last year, Trump said he was ending DACA because then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions determined that President Barack Obama had exceeded his authority in setting up the program. The appeals court said Sessions was wrong.
Obama’s order was “a permissible exercise of executive discretion” that allowed the Department of Homeland Security to “devote much-needed resources to enforcement priorities such as threats to national security, rather than blameless and economically productive young people with clean criminal records,” appeals court Judges Kim McLane Wardlaw, Jacqueline H. Nguyen and John B. Owens wrote.
Trump ultimately could rescind DACA, but the decision cannot rest “solely on an erroneous legal premise,” they added. All three judges are Democratic appointees.