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Trump Policy Limiting Asylum Not Revived by Supreme Court

By William Vogeler, Esq. on December 21, 2018 4:00 PM

The U.S. Supreme Court turned away President Trump's initiative to turn away illegal migrants seeking asylum in the United States.

It was a close decision, as Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. sided with the liberal wing of the court. That included Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who was recuperating from cancer surgery the same day.

The decision was important to asylum-seekers, but also to court-watchers. It illustrates the high stakes in the balance between the president and the judiciary.

"National Security"

In a brief order, Justice Brett Kavanaugh followed the conservative lead of Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito Jr., and Neil Gorsuch. The court gave no reason for its action, but the Chief Justice had signaled his personal displeasure with the president weeks ago.

On Nov. 9, President Trump barred migrants from applying for asylum unless they requested it at a border checkpoint. He invoked "national security" to protect the nation's borders.

Judge Jon Tigar, however, issued a temporary restraining order against the directive. The law allows aliens to apply for asylum no matter where they enter the country, he said.

"Whatever the scope of the president's authority, he may not rewrite the immigration laws to impose a condition that Congress has expressly forbidden," the judge said.

No Trump Judges

Trump retaliated via Twitter, calling Tigar an "Obama judge." In a rare public response, Chief Justice Roberts said there are no "Obama judges or Trump judges."

"What we have is an extraordinary group of dedicated judges doing their level best to do equal right to those appearing before them," he said.

The presidents' order was aimed at migrants crossing the border from Mexico. Many requested asylum from violence and poverty in their home countries -- mostly Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.

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