Here’s the latest for Tuesday November 20th: Judge issues ban against Trump asylum policy; Suspect, 3 others dead in Chicago hospital shooting; Shooting in downtown Denver; Washington Post reports Ivanka Trump used personal email for government business.
A federal judge in Washington on Wednesday ruled that the Trump administration violated federal law by barring migrants from qualifying for asylum in the U.S. based on their fears from domestic abuse or gang violence in their home countries, the second judicial rebuke to the administration’s efforts to limit asylum in as many months.
Then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced new rules in June that required U.S. officials to deny those applications for asylum and place the applicants into expedited deportation proceedings. Attorneys filed a lawsuit on behalf of a dozen foreigners facing deportation as a result of those rules, arguing that the new guidelines represent an “evisceration of asylum protections for the most vulnerable immigrants fleeing horrific persecution.”
On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan agreed, issuing a permanent injunction against the departments of Homeland Security and Justice, forcing them to abide by the old rules. The judge ruled that restricting asylum to those victims was a clear “violation of the immigration laws” and ordered the administration to reverse course.
“Many of these policies are inconsistent with the intent of Congress as articulated in the (Immigration and Nationality Act),” Sullivan wrote. “And 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.”
The judge also ordered the administration to return any foreigners to the U.S. who had been denied asylum under the new rules and deported to their home countries so they can receive new asylum hearings. Sullivan set out a rigid schedule for the government to inform the court of people who may have been deported under the new guidelines, and to issue regular status reports on its progress.
The permanent injunction will remain in place pending possible appeals from the Department of Justice. Spokesman Steve Stafford said Wednesday that the department is reviewing all its options and remained confident the rule is legal.
“Today, a court has, once again, overridden and undermined United States immigration law,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement. “We will continue to fight for the rule of law and against these reckless rulings.”
Attorneys who filed the lawsuit from the ACLU and the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law, hailed the ruling as a first step on the road toward defending the “unequivocal right” of migrants to seek refuge in the U.S.
“This ruling is a defeat for the Trump administration’s all-out assault on the rights of asylum seekers,” said Jennifer Chang Newell of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, who argued the case before Sullivan. “The government’s attempt to obliterate asylum protections is unlawful and inconsistent with our country’s longstanding commitment to provide protection to immigrants fleeing for their lives.”
Sullivan’s ruling follows a separate decision from a federal judge in San Francisco on Nov. 19, which temporarily prevents the Trump administration from implementing new rules that bar migrants who enter the U.S. illegally from requesting asylum. In that case, U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar ruled that Trump “may not rewrite the immigration laws,” and issued a temporary restraining order that will last at least until a Dec. 19 court hearing.
The Supreme Court is expected to rule this week whether it will hear that case.
The two rulings combined could have an immediate impact on the thousands of migrants who are gathering in Tijuana and other Mexican border cities, many of whom are planning to request asylum in the U.S.
Sullivan’s ruling focuses on the very definition of asylum, which is granted to people who fear persecution in their home countries based on their race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or their political opinion. Since the passage of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1980, which created the current asylum rules, U.S. officials have allowed some victims of domestic abuse and gang violence to remain in the U.S.
When announcing the new policy in June, Sessions disputed that practice, arguing that the definition of persecution involves actions committed by a government. Extending asylum protections beyond that, he said, turns the U.S. asylum system into a “general hardship statute.”
“Victims of personal crimes do not fit this definition — no matter how vile and reprehensible the crime perpetrated against them,” Sessions said.
The ACLU argued in court papers that such a ban ignores the fact that most victims of domestic abuse are women. U.S. courts have ruled that such gender-based persecution fits into the definition of asylum because they are part of a “social group.”
And while victims of gang abuse include men and women, the lawsuit argues that a person can be equally persecuted by a government or a private actor.
Broadly denying both groups of people, the lawsuit argued, represents not only a violation of immigration law, but an abdication of the U.S. government’s responsibility to care for the helpless.
“The Trump administration is violating U.S. immigration law, international refugee law, and our Constitution,” said Eunice Lee, co-legal director of the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies, which filed the lawsuit along with the ACLU. “It’s putting the lives of our plaintiffs and thousands of asylum seekers in grave danger.”
Sullivan made headlines in August when he became enraged over the administration’s decision to deport a Salvadoran mother and daughter who were part of the lawsuit. During a court hearing, he ordered the government to “turn that plane around,” which led the Department of Homeland Security to immediately return the mother and daughter to the U.S.
Sullivan is also overseeing the case of Michael Flynn, a retired three-star general and President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser who was chastised by the judge Tuesday during a sentencing hearing.
Sullivan has ascended the judicial ladder with nominations from both Republican and Democratic administrations. He was first appointed to the federal bench in 1984 by former President Ronald Reagan. He was appointed to the D.C. Court of Appeals by former President George H.W. Bush in 1991, and then appointed to the D.C. District Court by former President Bill Clinton in 1994.
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