A federal judge in San Francisco dealt a major blow to a signature piece of President Joe Biden’s immigration policy on Tuesday, calling its rule that limits who can apply for asylum at the southern border “both substantively and procedurally invalid.”
The Justice Department promptly signaled their intention to contest this decision in an appellate court, setting the stage for a legal battle that could ultimately reach the Supreme Court. The Biden administration is staunchly defending its controversial "asylum ineligibility rule," which stipulates that asylum-seekers must either arrange an asylum hearing at an authorized port of entry or demonstrate that they had previously applied for and were rejected asylum in another country while journeying to the U.S.
Judge Jon Tigar, in anticipation of the impending legal contest, placed a 14-day stay on his own ruling. This postponement could effectively maintain the current asylum policy until the Supreme Court has the opportunity to review the matter.
The contested asylum rule came into effect when the Covid
-19 related restrictions, known as Title 42, were lifted in May. Title 42, during its three-year enforcement, prevented more than 2 million border crossings. While observers anticipated a surge of migrants at the border after Title 42's cessation, the number of crossings surprisingly decreased. The Biden administration has credited the asylum ineligibility policy for controlling border crossings since May, maintaining in court that the policy is crucial for regulating migration during a period of heightened irregular movement throughout the Western Hemisphere.
Government attorneys representing the Department of Homeland Security fear that repealing the rule could lead to a resurgence of border encounters, thereby placing considerable pressure on the Department, border communities, and interior cities.
In his Tuesday ruling, Judge Tigar asserted that the policy, in effect for two months, couldn't continue, and abolishing the contested rule would revert the situation to the regulatory regime that prevailed for several decades before.
The ruling elicited a jubilant response from advocacy groups who had been contesting the rule, but they expressed that it was high time to abolish the asylum ineligibility rule.
Katrina Eiland, deputy director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, who argued the case, regarded the ruling as a victory. However, she lamented, “Each day the Biden administration prolongs the fight over its illegal ban, many people fleeing persecution and seeking safe harbor for their families are instead left in grave danger.”
Similarly, Keren Zwick, director of litigation at the National Immigrant Justice Center, urged the Biden administration to uphold the rights of individuals fleeing persecution to seek asylum in the U.S, instead of "fighting to continue this unlawful and inhumane asylum ban."