asylum ban stands

A group of males from India who crossed the U.S.-Mexico border without documents sit in a U.S. Border Patrol vehicle after being apprehended on July 16, 2018 in San Diego, California. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court is allowing nationwide enforcement of a new Trump administration rule that prevents most immigrants arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border from seeking asylum in the United States.

The justices’ order late Sept. 11 temporarily undoes a lower-court ruling that had blocked the new asylum policy in some states along the southern border. The policy is meant to deny asylum to anyone who passes through another country on the way to the U.S. without seeking protection there.

(India-West adds: in 2018, an estimated 9,000 people from India arrived by foot on the U.S.-Mexico border, seeking asylum. In 2017, an estimated 7,000 asylum seekers arrived in the same manner, according to rough estimates from the Sikh American Legal Defense Fund.

In their asylum claims, many Indian minorities, including Sikhs, Muslims, and Christians, have stated they have faced violence and persecution in India, from both private actors and public officials.

Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions in 2018 greatly narrowed the definition of who was eligible for asylum; victims of domestic violence or those harassed by gang members or other private actors are no longer eligible.)

The shift reverses decades of U.S. policy. The administration has said that it wants to close the gap between an initial asylum screening that most people pass and a final decision on asylum that most people do not win.

“BIG United States Supreme Court WIN for the Border on Asylum!” Trump tweeted.

Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor dissented from the high-court’s order. “Once again, the Executive Branch has issued a rule that seeks to upend longstanding practices regarding refugees who seek shelter from persecution,” Sotomayor wrote.

The legal challenge to the new policy has a brief but somewhat convoluted history. U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar in San Francisco blocked the new policy from taking effect in late July. A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals narrowed Tigar’s order so that it applied only in Arizona and California, states that are within the 9th Circuit.

That left the administration free to enforce the policy on asylum seekers arriving in New Mexico and Texas. Tigar issued a new order on Sept. 9 that reimposed a nationwide hold on asylum policy. The 9th Circuit again narrowed his order on Sept. 10.

The high-court action allows the administration to impose the new policy everywhere while the court case against it continues.

Lee Gelernt, the American Civil Liberties Union lawyer who is representing immigrant advocacy groups in the case, said: “This is just a temporary step, and we’re hopeful we’ll prevail at the end of the day. The lives of thousands of families are at stake.”

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