The Supreme Court issued an order Friday maintaining a blockade of President Trump’s asylum crackdown, preserving the right of anyone who crosses the southern border to demand asylum — even if they enter illegally.
Lower courts had blocked the policy while legal challenges are developing, and the justices, in a 5-4 ruling, declined to stay that blockade.
Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr., Neil M. Gorsuch and Brett M. Kavanaugh dissented, saying they would have granted the stay and allowed the president’s policy to take effect while the cases are being fought.
At issue was a presidential proclamation issued last month, just as the migrant caravan was arriving at the U.S. border.
In signing the proclamation, Mr. Trump triggered a new immigration rule that prevented people who illegally crossed from using the American asylum process.
The goal was to push people to come through border crossings, where the government has more control over the flow.
But immigrant rights activists sued, saying that U.S. law doesn’t distinguish between how immigrants living in the U.S. illegally arrive and grants anyone who reaches American soil a chance at asylum.
A federal judge in California agreed — drawing a fierce rebuke from Mr. Trump, who complained about anti-Trump bias among West Coast judges in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.
The Trump administration blames lax asylum rules for enticing the recent wave of Central American immigrants who entered the U.S. illegally.
Under U.S. policy, migrants need only say what officials deem the “magic words” — essentially claiming they fear being sent back home — to pass the initial asylum threshold, entitling them to make a full claim.
During that time, they are in the U.S., and most take the chance to disappear into the shadows and live in the U.S. illegally — in many cases never bothering to follow up on their asylum claims, and in others, even after losing their claims, refusing to leave.
Smuggling cartels tell would-be migrants of the ease of making claims, and migrants who have successfully exploited that path tell family and friends back home in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, the chief countries responsible for the surge.
The Department of Homeland Security announced a new policy Thursday that would allow the U.S. to make most asylum-seekers wait in Mexico while their cases are being judged.
Officials hope that would cut down on the incentive for abuse of the asylum system.
Immigrant-rights advocates have vowed to challenge that move in court.