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Judge blocks Trump's asylum ban along entire U.S.-Mexico border for second time

A federal judge on Monday restored a nationwide scope on an order he issued earlier in the summer to block the Trump administration's most sweeping effort yet to unilaterally restrict the asylum system for migrants from Central America and other parts of the world who seek refuge at the U.S.-Mexico border. 

Judge Jon Tigar of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California reinstated a nationwide injunction blocking a joint Justice Department and Department of Homeland Security rule that makes most migrants who transited through a third country — and did not seek refuge there — ineligible for asylum when they reach the U.S. at one of the country's land borders. 

Last month, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals did not grant the government's request to issue an administrative stay on a previous ruling by Tigar that blocked this near-total asylum ban. But the court also said the injunction blocking the rule only applied within the court's jurisdiction, barring the administration from implementing the policy in California and Arizona, but allowing the rule to be enforced along the rest of the border, in New Mexico and Texas.

Through Monday's ruling, Tigar again prohibited the administration from implementing the rule anywhere along the southern border.  

A U.S. Border Patrol agent helps asylum-seeking migrant families unload from a U.S. Border Patrol riverine unit in Hidalgo
A Border Patrol agent asylum-seeking migrant families rescued during an attempted illegal crossing of the Rio Grande in Hidalgo, Texas, on August 23, 2019. Loren Elliott / REUTERS

Immigration advocates praised Tigar's decision. Melissa Crow, a senior supervising attorney at the Southern Poverty Law Center's Immigrant Justice Project, said the order removes a "major hurdle" for asylum-seeking migrants. 

"This ruling levels the playing field for all the vulnerable individuals and families seeking refuge in the United States," Crow said in a statement. "With this decision, regardless of where they cross the border, these people should be able to seek asylum." 

Late last month, the Justice Department urged the Supreme Court to stay Tigar's initial injunction and allow the administration to implement the asylum ban nationwide.  

Administration officials have maintained that the rule would help curb what they call "forum shopping" by migrants. They have repeatedly accused migrants of preferring to seek asylum in the U.S., rather than in the countries along their journey that might be able to offer them safe haven. 

The administration was quick to condemn Tigar's ruling on Monday, with Acting Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Mark Morgan denouncing it as the latest example of "judicial activism." White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said the judge's decision will hinder what she referred to as the administration's efforts to "reform" the nation's "broken asylum system." 

"Immigration and border security policy cannot be run by any single district court judge who decides to issue a nationwide injunction," Grisham added in a statement. "This ruling is a gift to human smugglers and traffickers and undermines the rule of law."

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