SAN DIEGO — Migrants waiting at the US-Mexico border before mid-July should not be subject to new Trump administration asylum limits, a federal judge ruled Tuesday.
The departments of Justice and Homeland Security issued a rule in July prohibiting migrants who have resided or “transited en route” in a third country from seeking asylum in the US, therefore barring migrants — many of whom are from Central American countries — traveling through Mexico from being able to claim asylum and as a result, drastically limit who’s eligible for asylum in the US.
Judge Cynthia Bashant of the Southern District of California ruled that the migrants who arrived prior to the July rule shouldn’t fall subject to it because it didn’t exist when they first arrived at the US-Mexico border.
The majority of migrants were from the Northern Triangle countries of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador and had to travel through Mexico to reach the border. Upon arriving in the US, some turned themselves into the US Border Patrol and claimed asylum.
Despite arriving earlier in the year, some asylum seekers continued to wait in Mexico to be processed as a result of the administration’s “metering” policy, which limits how many people can be processed through a legal port in a given day.
Bashant addressed that policy in her order, saying, “But for the Government’s metering policy, these asylum-seekers would have entered the United States and started the asylum process without delay.”
She added: “But because they did as the Government initially required and waited in Mexico, the Government is now arguing that they did not enter, attempt to enter, or arrive in the United States before July 16, 2019 and are now subject to this additional eligibility limitation. This situation, at its core, is quintessentially inequitable.”
Bashant blocked the regulation from applying to those asylum seekers.
The July regulation came amid an uptick in migrants at the US-Mexico border. US Customs and Border Protection apprehended and deemed inadmissible nearly 1 million people during the government’s 2019 fiscal year, according to the agency’s acting chief Mark Morgan.
The Trump administration has tried to curb the flow of asylum seekers by rolling out a series of policies that limit who’s eligible for asylum in the US, including the July rule. This week, the administration is expected to begin implementing an agreement with Guatemala that allows the US to begin transferring some asylum seeking migrants to Guatemala to seek protection there.