U.S. District Court Denies Request for Temporary Restraining Order Halting Trump Administration’s New Rule Curbing Asylum Applicants

On Wednesday, July 24, 2019, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia declined to impose a temporary restraining order which would pause the Trump administration’s new rule limiting asylum requests from migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border. The new rule requires that migrants and refugees passing through a third country en route to the United States must seek asylum from said third country in order to apply for asylum in the United States. Under the new rule, migrant and refugee Hondurans and Salvadorans must be denied asylum in Guatemala or Mexico before seeking asylum in the United States, and Guatemalans must be denied asylum in Mexico in order to apply for asylum in the United States.

The lawsuit challenging the new asylum rule was filed on July 16, one day after the rule was announced and the same day the rule went into effect, by the Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights Coalition of Washington and the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services. The two nonprofit groups argued that the new rule violates the Immigration and Naturalization Act because the immigration act states unequivocally that applicants have a right to appeal for protection after reaching U.S. soil. The groups also argued that the new rule violates the Administrative Procedure Act with regard to federal rule making.

Arguing on behalf of the nonprofit groups, Neal Katyal, former acting U.S. solicitor general and Hogan Lovells partner, said that the new rule “radically rewrites” asylum law. Deputy Assistant Attorney General Scott G. Stewart argued that the new rule is needed to deal with the “ongoing crisis” and “overwhelming crush” at the U.S.-Mexico border. In an earlier statement, Attorney General William P. Barr compared the growing number of asylum claims at the U.S.-Mexico border to litigants forum shopping in an attempt to make use of American generosity.

A similar lawsuit challenging the Trump administration’s new asylum rule has been filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. Judge Laurel Beeler is set to hear arguments later today.

In the first eight months of the fiscal year, the U.S. government has stopped 524,446 non-Mexican border crossers. This figure is nearly double the last two years combined. According to data from the United States Justice Department, asylum filings have almost quadrupled in the last five years. Fewer than twenty percent of Central American applicants are granted asylum by U.S. courts.

Additional Reading

Federal judge allows Trump administration rule restricting asylum access to continue, The Washington Post (July 24, 2019)

Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights Coalition et al v. Trump et al (Case No. 1:2019cv02117)

East Bay Sanctuary Covenant et al v. Barr et al (Case No. 3:2019cv04073)