How many ways can Trump say no to asylum seekers? He started as soon as he was inaugurated, with the Muslim ban, then moved on to bar people at the southern border. Among the ways to say no to asylum seekers:
- Denying asylum to anyone fleeing domestic violence,
- Denying asylum to anyone fleeing gang violence,
- Denying asylum to anyone who crosses the border without authorization,
- Denying asylum to anyone who crosses through another country to get to the United States,
- “Metering” at checkpoints, which means processing only a handful of applicants each day,
- “Return to Mexico,” which sends asylum seekers back to Mexico after their initial court hearing, to wait there for months until their next hearing.
Courts frequently enjoin these nay-saying executive orders and regulations, but the Ninth Circuit just ruled that one big barrier can stand—except in the Ninth Circuit. Confused? Here’s what happened:
On July 15, the administration ordered that any asylum seeker who had passed through a third country on their way to the United States was barred from applying for asylum. That order barred all migrants coming to the southern border, except for Mexican citizens.
On July 24, Federal District Court Judge Jon Tigar issued a preliminary injunction against the rule, applicable nationwide. Judge Tigar’s decision was based in part on the “arbitrary and capricious” way in which the regulation was ordered, and in part on its clear violation of U.S. asylum laws passed by Congress.
On August 16, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed part of Judge Tigar’s order. The Ninth Circuit ruling said that Judge Tigar’s order could only be applied within the Ninth Circuit: along the border, that means in California and Arizona. Most migrants cross the border in Texas and some also cross in New Mexico. They will now be barred from applying for asylum.
Asylum seekers who have followed the Trump administration’s rules will now be barred. They have waited in Mexico for a chance to approach the checkpoint and ask for asylum. Some have waited for months, with no way of knowing when their names will be called from handwritten, unofficial lists. More than 25,000 names are on those lists.
The administration’s “Remain in Mexico” program has sent more than 30,000 asylum seekers back to Mexico to wait for their next hearing. Some of those migrants live in crowded and dangerous conditions, or even on the street. Others have been bused 750 miles to Mexico’s southern border, with no way to contact a lawyer, no assistance, and no way to return for their hearings.
This administration’s immigration policies, including attacks on asylum, have succeeded mainly in causing suffering, and that will continue. So will determined legal challenges to those policies, across the country.