Bolstering President Donald Trump on one of his signature issues, the U.S. Supreme Court cleared his administration to enforce a new rule designed to sharply limit who can apply for asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border.
The justices said Wednesday the administration can apply the policy while a legal challenge goes forward. A series of lower court rulings had put the rule on hold.
“BIG United States Supreme Court WIN for the Border on Asylum!” Trump said on Twitter.
Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissented. They said the rule “topples decades of settled asylum practices and affects some of the most vulnerable people in the Western Hemisphere — without affording the public a chance to weigh in.”
The justices in the majority gave no explanation, following the court’s frequent practice when acting on emergency filings.
In a statement on Wednesday night, the White House said the decision means that “the administration can implement important, needed fixes to the broken asylum system. This greatly helps build on the progress we’ve made addressing the crisis at our southern border and will ultimately make American communities safer.”
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The policy affects people who travel to the U.S. through Mexico from Central America. People crossing the southern border won’t be able to seek asylum unless they previously applied for protection from one of the countries they passed through.
The administration told the Supreme Court the rule “alleviates a crushing burden on the U.S. asylum system by prioritizing asylum seekers who most need asylum in the United States.”
The American Civil Liberties Union, representing four nonprofit organizations, sued to challenge the rule, which it said would virtually eliminate asylum at the southern border.
“Allowing the ban to go into effect would not only upend four decades of unbroken practice, it would place countless people, including families and unaccompanied children, at grave risk,” the ACLU argued in court papers.
U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar had blocked the Trump administration’s approach. Tigar, who sits in Oakland, California, said the rule couldn’t be squared with U.S. immigration law and the system Congress established for asylum applications.
An appeals court temporarily trimmed that order so that it applied only in California and Arizona, the two border states within the court’s jurisdiction. But that decision left room for Tigar to restore the nationwide scope of his ruling, something he did on Monday.
The White House statement called his decision an “egregious ruling.”
In December, a divided Supreme Court refused to let Trump start automatically rejecting all asylum claims by people who cross the southern border illegally. The policy would have effectively required all asylum claims to be made at official ports of entry.
The vote in that case was 5-4, with Chief Justice John Roberts joining the court’s liberal wing in the majority.
The new case is Barr v. East Bay Sanctuary Covenant, 19A230.
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