Supreme Court allows full enforcement of asylum crackdown

(Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday granted a request by President Donald Trump's administration to fully enforce a new rule that would curtail asylum applications by immigrants at the U.S.-Mexico border, a key element of his hardline immigration policies.

The court said the rule, which requires most immigrants who want asylum to first seek safe haven in a third country through which they traveled on their way to the United States, could go into effect as litigation challenging its legality continues.

Liberal Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissented.

The San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Aug. 16 limited a federal judge's injunction blocking the rule to the nine Western states over which it has jurisdiction including the border states of California and Arizona. That had left open the possibility that the rule could be applied in the two other border states, Texas and New Mexico.

The American Civil Liberties Union and others who challenged the administration's policy in federal court said it violates U.S. immigration law and accused the administration of failing to follow the correct legal process in issuing the rule, which was unveiled on July 15.

California-based U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar in July issued a nationwide injunction blocking the rule before the 9th Circuit scaled it back.

The rule would bar almost all immigrants from applying for asylum at the southern border. It represents the latest effort by Trump's administration to crack down on immigration, a signature issue during his presidency and 2020 re-election bid.

34 PHOTOS
Migrants travel through Central America to the U.S.
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Migrants travel through Central America to the U.S.
Thousands of Hondurans in U.S.-bound migrant caravan head into Mexico. (Reuters)
Rafts cross the Suchiate River to avoid the border checkpoint in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico, in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico, October 20, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
A Honduran migrant, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., climbs down from the bridge that connects Mexico and Guatemala to avoid the border checkpoint in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico, October 19, 2018. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido
Central American migrants walk along the highway near the border with Guatemala, as they continue their journey trying to reach the U.S., in Tapachula, Mexico October 21, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
Central American migrants making their way to the U.S. in a large caravan wave a Mexican flag as they arrive to Tapachula, Mexico, after a truck driver gave them a free ride, Sunday, Oct. 21, 2018. Despite Mexican efforts to stop them at the Guatemala-Mexico border, about 5,000 Central American migrants resumed their advance toward the U.S. border Sunday in southern Mexico. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)
Central American migrants walk along the highway near the border with Guatemala, as they continue their journey trying to reach the U.S., in Tapachula, Mexico October 21, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
Central American migrants walk along the highway near the border with Guatemala, as they continue their journey trying to reach the U.S., in Tapachula, Mexico October 21, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
Central American migrants hitchhike along the highway near the border with Guatemala, as they continue their journey trying to reach the U.S., in Tapachula, Mexico October 21, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
Central American migrants walk along the highway near the border with Guatemala, as they continue their journey trying to reach the U.S., in Tapachula, Mexico October 21, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
A man holds his luggage a top his head amidst a caravan of thousands of migrants from Central America as they walk towards Tapachula from Ciudad Hidalgo while en route to the United States, in Frontera Hidalgo, Mexico October 21, 2018. REUTERS/Adrees Latif
Central American migrants walk along the highway near the border with Guatemala, as they continue their journey trying to reach the U.S., in Tapachula, Mexico October 21, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
Central American migrants walk along the highway near the border with Guatemala, as they continue their journey trying to reach the U.S., in Tapachula, Mexico October 21, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
A caravan of thousands of migrants from Central America walk towards Tapachula from Ciudad Hidalgo while en route to the United States, in Frontera Hidalgo, Mexico October 21, 2018. REUTERS/Adrees Latif
Honduran migrants children, Ian Enamorado, 9, Josen Enamorado, 6 and Jasabel Quintanilla, 3, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., wait with their parents to apply for asylum in Mexico at a checkpoint in Tecun Uman, Guatemala, October 20, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
Children of Central American migrants, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., wait with their parents to apply for asylum in Mexico at a checkpoint in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico, October 20, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
Central American migrants, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., cross the Suchiate River on a raft to avoid the border checkpoint in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico, October 20, 2018. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido
Central American migrants, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., cross the Suchiate River to avoid the border checkpoint in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico, October 20, 2018. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido
Central American migrants, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., cross the Suchiate River to avoid the border checkpoint in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico, October 20, 2018. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido
Central American migrants, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., cross the Suchiate River to avoid the border checkpoint in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico, October 20, 2018. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido
Central American migrants, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., use a provisional ladder to climb down from the bridge that connects Mexico and Guatemala, in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico, October 20, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Central American migrants, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., cross the Suchiate River on a raft to avoid the border checkpoint in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico, October 20, 2018. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido
A Central American Migrant, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., holds a child after crossing the Suchiate River on a raft to avoid the border checkpoint in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico, October 20, 2018. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido
A Central American migrant, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., holds a girl in his arms as he walks to Mexico after crossing the Suchiate river to avoid the border checkpoint in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico, October 20, 2018. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido
Central American migrants, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., sit on a raft after going down from a bridge that connects Mexico and Guatemala to avoid the border checkpoint in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico, October 20, 2018. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido
Central American migrants, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., react on a raft after climbing down from a bridge that connects Mexico and Guatemala to avoid the border checkpoint in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico, October 20, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
Honduran migrants, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., cross the Suchiate River on a raft to avoid the border checkpoint in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico, October 20, 2018. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido
Honduran migrants, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., wait to cross the Suchiate River to avoid the border checkpoint in Tecun Uman, Guatemala, October 20, 2018. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido
A Honduran migrant, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., waits to open the gate on the bridge that connects Mexico and Guatemala in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico, October 20, 2018. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido
Honduran migrants, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., wait to open the gate on the bridge that connects Mexico and Guatemala in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico, October 20, 2018. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido
Honduran migrants, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., wait to open the gate on the bridge that connects Mexico and Guatemala in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico, October 20, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
Honduran migrants, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., rest at the checkpoint between Guatemala and Mexico in Tecun Uman, Guatemala, October 19, 2018.REUTERS/Edgard Garrido
Honduran migrants, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., rest on the bridge that connects Mexico and Guatemala in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico, October 19, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
Honduran migrants, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., are pictured after crossing into Mexico, in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico October 19, 2018REUTERS/Edgard Garrido
A Honduran migrant, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., climbs down from the bridge that connects Mexico and Guatemala to avoid the border checkpoint in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico, October 19, 2018. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido
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In her dissent from the decision to lift the injunction, Sotomayor said that the government's rule may be in significant tension with the asylum statute. "It is especially concerning, moreover, that the rule the government promulgated topples decades of settled asylum practices and affects some of the most vulnerable people in the Western Hemisphere — without affording the public a chance to weigh in."

One of the Republican president's main objectives has been to reduce the number of asylum claims primarily by Central American migrants who have crossed the U.S.-Mexico border in large numbers during his presidency.

The rule would block nearly all families and individuals from countries like El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala from entering the United States as asylum seekers after crossing through Mexico. The rule would keep asylum protections for Mexican citizens.

 

GOVERNMENT ARGUED RIGHT TO SET POLICY

The rule drew legal challenges including from a coalition of groups represented by the ACLU. They accused the administration of pursuing an "asylum ban" and jeopardizing the safety and security of migrants fleeing persecution and seeking safety in the United States.

In the administration's request to fully enforce the rule, U.S. Solicitor General Noel Francisco asked the Supreme Court to issue a stay blocking the injunction while litigation over the issue proceeds because the judge's order interferes with the government's authority to establish immigration policy.

The administration said the rule screens out asylum claims that are unlikely to succeed and "deters aliens without a genuine need for asylum from making the arduous and potentially dangerous journey from Central America to the United States."

The Supreme Court in December rebuffed a bid by the administration to implement a separate policy prohibiting asylum for people crossing the U.S.-Mexican border outside of an official port of entry, with conservative Chief Justice John Roberts joining the four liberal justices in denying the request.

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley and Daniel Trotta; Additional reporting by Andrew Chung; Editing by Howard Goller and Cynthia Osterman)

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