SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – Citing the need to “maintain uniform immigration policy,” a federal judge on Monday restored a nationwide block of a Justice Department rule that makes asylum seekers ineligible for refugee status unless they applied for and were denied asylum in Mexico or another country passed en route to the United States.
“The court recognized there is grave danger facing asylum seekers along the entire stretch of the southern border,” ACLU attorney Lee Gelernt said of the ruling Monday.
Gelernt had argued on behalf of immigration activist groups at a hearing Thursday before U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar, who say they are irreparably harmed by having to divert resources from asylum programs to defend deportation cases. East Bay Sanctuary Covenant, Al Otro Lado, Innovation Law Lab and Central American Resource Center sued the Trump administration to block the asylum rule, enacted July 16.
“The need to provide complete relief to the plaintiffs, standing alone, is sufficient reason for the re-issuance of the nationwide injunction,” Tigar wrote, granting their emergency motion to restore the injunction.
In August, the Ninth Circuit found a nationwide injunction was not justified and limited it only to the nine states within its jurisdiction, including its only two U.S.-Mexico border states – California and Arizona.
In his Monday ruling, Tigar said he has jurisdiction to retain the status quo while the federal government appeals the case.
Most of his ruling centered on the irreparable harm to the advocacy groups, finding they would lose funding and be forced to adjust the scope of their legal services. They’ll also have to spend time redesigning their asylum workshops and retraining staff.
“The organizations have presented sufficient evidence that they will suffer organizational and diversion of resources harms unless the rule is enjoined outside of, as well as within, the Ninth Circuit,” Tigar wrote.
But he also said a nationwide injunction should be restored to maintain uniform immigration policy and prevent uneven enforcement of immigration law. He said it remains unclear how the Trump administration’s guidance documents on the rule will affect asylum applicants moving between circuits.
Should an applicant who crosses the border outside the Ninth Circuit be ordered deported, Tigar said, what would happen if that person’s case is sent to the Ninth Circuit?
“If that individual’s removal proceedings were later moved to the Ninth Circuit, it is unclear whether the immigration judge would be bound by the original denial of credible fear or, since the rule is enjoined within the Ninth Circuit, able to allow the individual to apply for asylum,” he wrote.
Michael Smith, refugee rights program director at the Berkeley, California-based nonprofit East Bay Sanctuary Covenant, said Tigar’s ruling means the group can continue its work. This has been harder to do in recent years, he said, as the Trump administration has cracked down on the influx of immigrants coming to the United States from Central America.
“This is an ongoing battle,” he said. “We’re seeing this in other ways that aren’t publicized. Things are taking longer and getting more difficult. They’re adding different processes to certain applications. This is a battle on all fronts.”
He added, “We’re a small office. We represent 50 people who cross a year in New Mexico and Texas, but there are thousands who cross every year who would be denied asylum because of it.”
Calling Tigar’s ruling “a gift to human smugglers and traffickers” that “undermines the rule of law,” the White House noted in a statement it has previously asked the Supreme Court to set aside the injunction “and we look forward to it acting on our request.”