A federal court on Monday reinstated a nationwide injunction against President Trump’s rule denying asylum to anyone who passed through a third country before coming to the United States, just hours before the administration released new figures showing a sharp drop in illegal immigration from Mexico.
The twin announcements illustrated the uneven state of Mr. Trump’s battle to transform U.S. immigration policy since taking office, where tough measures to beef up security on the ground have been matched by repeated rebuffs from liberal judges in the courts.
As it has repeatedly, the administration expressed its frustration that national immigration policy is being dictated by a single district court judge out in California, and the Justice Department has asked the Supreme Court to set aside the injunction entirely — a request that’s currently pending before the high court.
“This ruling is a gift to human smugglers and traffickers and undermines the rule of law,” said Stephanie Grisham, White House press secretary.
The administration’s policy would have forced migrants to apply for asylum in the first country they arrive in after fleeing their home country, instead of passing through Mexico into the U.S. and then requesting asylum.
Immigrant rights groups challenged the move, though, and the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals halted it from going into effect within the 9th Circuit’s jurisdiction, which includes nine states.
But Monday’s ruling from U.S. District Judge Jon S. Tigar for the Northern District of California, an Obama appointee, took the injunction a step further. Judge Tigar reinstated a pause on the president’s policy nationwide, saying it was the only remedy to provide complete relief to the plaintiffs.
“While many of these clients cross the border in the Ninth Circuit, they ‘move between jurisdictions throughout the lifetime of their asylum case,'” the judge wrote.
Despite suffering a setback in the court, the administration’s acting commissioner of Customs and Border Protection Mark Morgan touted new number showing a market decline in illegal immigration at the southern U.S. border, saying illegal crossing have decreased by roughly 20% from July to August. He credited the White House’s “incredible” efforts and “unprecedented” steps by the government of Mexico.
Border patrol nabbed 66,000 people at the border last month, down from 82,000 in July and a sharp drop from a peak of over 140,000 in May.
“Why do we see in 90 days a 56% reduction? The president has made it very clear that he’s going to use every tool available to him and his administration to address this crisis at the southern border,” he said from the White House briefing room.
U.S. officials said much of the credit must also go to Mexico, which after persistent pressure by Mr. Trump — and a threat of new economic tariffs — has increased its own enforcement at its southern and northern borders.
Mr. Morgan said Mexico has “stepped up” as a great partner, even dispatching a national guard division for border security.
He said numbers could improve, however.
“We need them to do more,” Mr. Morgan said. “We need Mexico to do more.”
Mexican officials have been touting their crackdown on illegal crossing from their side of the border, and Mexican Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard is due in Washington on Tuesday for more talks on the border crisis. Mr. Ebrard told reporters in Mexico City last week he expected a friendlier reception on this trip.
“We’re showing that the strategy that Mexico put forward has been successful,” Mr. Ebrard said, according to The Associated Press. “I don’t expect a tariff threat Tuesday because it wouldn’t make sense.”
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