Under the rule, the U.S. could refuse to consider a request for asylum from anyone who failed to apply for it after leaving home but before reaching the U.S.
A federal judge ruled on Tuesday night that the Trump administration’s strictest asylum policy to date is illegal.
A rule put in place in 2019 prohibited immigrants from claiming asylum in the United States if they did not first try to claim it in a country they passed through on their way to the U.S. border.
U.S. District Judge Timothy J. Kelly of Washington, D.C., ruled in favor of immigrant nonprofits and asylum-seekers who argued that the rule known as the “third-country asylum rule,” which was jointly published by the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security, violated the Immigration and Nationality Act.
Kelly, who was appointed to the federal bench by President Donald Trump in 2017, agreed that in adopting the policy, the administration did not abide by the federal Administrative Procedure Act, or APA, which requires that Americans be given enough time and opportunity to weigh in on such rule changes.
The Immigration and Nationality Act, the judge argued, generally allows anyone who has made it to U.S. soil to apply for asylum, with some exceptions, including for those with criminal records.
“There are many circumstances in which courts appropriately defer to the national security judgments of the Executive,” Kelly wrote. “But determining the scope of an APA exception is not one of them.”
The judge noted that the Supreme Court had blocked an earlier injunction against the rule until the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed overturning the rule.
An attorney for the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, which represented the plaintiffs, lauded the decision. “The court recognized that the Trump administration unlawfully skipped steps mandated by Congress to ensure transparency in its failed attempt to make an end-run around asylum protections,” said Julie Veroff.
Tuesday night’s move, a major blow to the administration’s toughest asylum policy, comes on the heels of the Supreme Court’s decision June 18 to uphold the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which has allowed nearly 800,000 young people, known as Dreamers, to avoid deportation.