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Supreme Court Allows Enforcement of Latest Trump Asylum Restrictions

Close-up Of Gavel And Passport In Front Of Law Book
By Christopher Coble, Esq. on September 13, 2019

The back and forth between the Trump administration and federal courts on immigration policy seems never-ending. Every time the administration issues new immigration enforcement rules, someone sues, a court blocks the rule, the appeals begin, and then maybe the Supreme Court allows it or doesn't, in whole or in part. It can be hard to keep track of which rules are actually in force.

For instance, this week the Supreme Court allowed the Trump administration to enforce a new rule on asylum seekers. No, it wasn't that rule from last year -- it was the one from this summer. And no, that doesn't mean it will be enforced forever, only while the legal challenges play out in court. We'll try to explain.

Many of the people who immigrate to the United States are attempting to escape persecution in their home countries and seeking safety, protection, and asylum in America. If you recall news of the migrant caravan from last year, most of those involved were fleeing gang violence in Central America.

In July of this year, the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security adopted an interim rule which stated: "an alien who enters or attempts to enter the United States across the southern border after failing to apply for protection in a third country outside the alien's country of citizenship, nationality, or last lawful habitual residence through which the alien transited en route to the United States is ineligible for asylum."

So, unless someone travelling from, say, Nicaragua, also applied for immigration protection in Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, or Mexico while on their way to America, they would be denied asylum in the U.S. The ACLU and migrant advocates sued over the rule, and a federal judge barred it from going into effect nationwide. A federal appeals court narrowed the ruling to California and Arizona, and the Trump administration appealed to the Supreme Court.

Enforcement, for Now

In a 7-2 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that Homeland Security and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services could enforce the rule while the legal fight played out in court. That means that an immigrant who crossed the southern border from Mexico after July 16 (regardless of when they left their home country) would be subject to the new restriction and denied asylum if they didn't already request protection from a third country.

The asylum process, even without new rules and the lawsuits challenging them, involves a complicated set of rules, requirements, and procedures. For help with or questions regarding an asylum claim, contact an experienced immigration attorney today.

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