A US judge struck down Trump administration policies aimed at restricting asylum claims by people citing gang or domestic violence in their home countries and ordered the US government to bring back six deported migrants to reconsider their cases.
The ruling is the latest legal setback for the administration’s policies aimed at restricting immigration. Last month, a judge in San Francisco ordered a halt to a policy that prevented those entering illegally from Mexico from seeking asylum.
The policy at the centre of Wednesday’s ruling sought to limit the ability of immigrants to fight expedited deportation by narrowing the grounds for claiming “credible fear” if they returned home, the first step in a long asylum process.
The policy was challenged in a District of Columbia lawsuit brought by a dozen adults and children who were represented by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies. US Judge Emmet Sullivan said the policy violated both immigration and administration law.
“And because it is the will of Congress – not the whims of the executive – that determines the standard for expedited removal, the court finds that those policies are unlawful,” wrote Sullivan in a 107-page opinion. The Department of Justice did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The administration filed a request to stay the court’s orders while the government appealed the ruling. Sullivan had not responded to that request.
For the last three months of 2017, the most recent numbers, the government conducted about 6,000 credible fear interviews monthly. The vast majority passed those interviews, allowing them to make their case for asylum in front of a US immigration judge.
“This ruling is a defeat for the Trump administration’s all-out assault on the rights of asylum seekers,” said a statement from Jennifer Chang Newell, an attorney with the ACLU. The ruling clears the way for four mothers and two children to be returned to the United States, according to Newell.
Trump has pledged to cut immigration and has threatened to shut down the government if Congress does not fund a wall on the border with Mexico. The administration has said that the asylum process is being abused by people who have frivolous claims but are able to stay in the country while their cases are being decided.
On Tuesday, the United States committed billions of dollars toward development in Central America and Mexico as part of a plan to curb illegal immigration.