Latest Court Rulings Deal Setbacks To Trump's Attempt To Thwart Asylum-Seekers
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
All right. There were two new court rulings that have dealt setbacks to the Trump administration's crackdown on asylum-seekers.
NOEL KING, HOST:
Yeah. That's right. A judge in San Francisco ruled yesterday that immigrants can apply for asylum regardless of how they enter the country. And then a judge in Washington, D.C., said it is Congress, not the White House, that sets the standard for who is granted asylum.
GREENE: Well, one person who's been following this is Lily Jamali from member station KQED in San Francisco. She's a co-host of The California Report.
LILY JAMALI, BYLINE: Good to be with you both.
GREENE: Well, let's tick through these two court decisions. First one came down in a San Francisco courtroom, right?
JAMALI: Right. So President Trump issued that proclamation just after the midterm election, back when the most recent migrant caravan hadn't yet reached the U.S.-Mexico border. And the argument is, there's a crisis. People with no basis for being here are flooding the border. And so the rule the president issued tried to make it so that migrants crossing into the U.S. between official points of entry would no longer be allowed to apply for asylum.
The ACLU, an immigrant rights group, said hold on a second; this is not uncharted legal territory. Congress has specifically looked at this. It's enshrined in the law, the right for people to apply for asylum, no matter how they got here. And federal Judge Jon Tigar here in San Francisco agreed with that argument in a ruling last month. The temporary restraining order he issued then was set to expire overnight. And his most recent ruling from yesterday puts a longer-term halt, an injunction, on this policy as the case works its way through the courts.
GREENE: OK. So for now, still in place, the idea that no matter where you cross, how you come into the country, you can still apply for asylum. So that's one issue. There was a separate issue that was dealt with by a judge in a courtroom in Washington, D.C. What was that?
JAMALI: That's right. In that one, it was once again the ACLU among those filing suit against the administration in response to a policy from back in June, one that came from Jeff Sessions, who was the attorney general at the time. He said claiming to be fleeing domestic abuse or gang violence doesn't make someone eligible for asylum. Well, yesterday, a federal judge in Washington ruled that there was no legal basis for that order, that it is up to Congress and not the executive branch to decide who gets asylum.
GREENE: OK. So the Trump administration, Lily, has been - I mean, this has been part of their larger argument, that there are too many people who are crossing the border and coming into the United States illegally. What impact, practically, might this have on President Trump and his policies?
JAMALI: Well, without a doubt, these are setbacks for the administration's approach on immigration. We are now up to at least four federal court decisions blocking the president's immigration crackdown. And the argument that seems to be working for the plaintiffs here isn't so much a humanitarian appeal as it is an argument about the separation of powers among the branches of our government. The courts have been a key check on the administration's attempts to remake immigration law as we know it by executive decree. And both of these judges are saying this turf belongs to Congress. It is up to the Congress to make these laws. And if the president wants different laws, he's got to go through Congress.
GREENE: Can the administration appeal in these cases?
JAMALI: They can. So far, the White House press secretary has issued a statement calling that ruling out of Washington reckless, the one about asylum-seekers fleeing gangs and domestic violence. The language in that statement makes it very clear they're going to keep on fighting on the case here in San Francisco. The administration had already asked the Supreme Court to look at Judge Tigar's first order, that temporary restraining order, which an appeals court here has backed.
GREENE: Lily Jamali in San Francisco, thanks. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.