A gavel sits on a desk inside the Court of Appeals at the new Ralph L. Carr Colorado Judicial Center, which celebrated its official opening on Monday Jan. 14, 2013, in Denver. 
Photo by Brennan Linsley/AP

In Trump’s latest court defeat, judge rejects new asylum rules


Earlier this year, the Trump administration announced a new policy to make it more difficult for immigrants to claim asylum because of domestic violence or gang violence. A federal judge yesterday said the administration can’t do that without congressional approval.

Judge Emmet Sullivan of the U.S. District Court in Washington ruled the harsher Justice Department policies ordered by former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions were “arbitrary, capricious and in violation of the immigration laws.”

Because “it is the will of Congress – not the whims of the Executive – that determines the standard for expedited removal, the Court finds that those policies are unlawful,” Sullivan wrote in his 107-page decision.

He permanently blocked the government “from continuing to apply those policies and from removing plaintiffs who are currently in the United States without first providing credible fear determinations consistent with the immigration laws,” and ordered the feds “to return to the United States the plaintiffs who were unlawfully deported and to provide them with new credible fear determinations consistent with the immigration laws.”

If this sounds at all familiar, this is the same case in which Sullivan threatened to hold then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions in contempt after the administration deported a young mother from El Salvador and her daughter. The judge had been assured that they would be on hand for emergency court proceedings, and after having been told the asylum-seekers had been removed from the country, Sullivan was not at all pleased.

Yesterday was the ruling on the legal question at issue in the case. The ruling has been put on hold pending future appeals.

Nevertheless, if it seems like a variety of Donald Trump’s anti-immigration measures have run into trouble in the courts lately, it’s not your imagination.

Three weeks ago, for example, a federal judge in New York barred the Justice Department “from withholding law-enforcement grants from states and cities that don’t cooperate with federal immigration authorities.”

Two weeks before that, a federal judge in California blocked the Trump administration “from refusing asylum to immigrants who cross the southern border illegally.”

U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar wrote at the time, “Whatever the scope of the President’s authority, he may not rewrite the immigration laws to impose a condition that Congress has expressly forbidden.”

Judges have also rejected Trump’s executive order on “sanctuary cities” and his efforts to deny DACA protections to Dreamers, and in September, a federal court ordered the administration to reunite the children separated from their parents under the president’s “zero tolerance” policy.

As we recently discussed, there’s a reason Republicans have scrambled to overhaul the federal judiciary and move the courts sharply to the right: it’s the branch of government that keeps getting in the Trump White House’s way on immigration.