Trump administration permitted to exclude more asylum seekers

US supreme court order will hit Hondurans, Salvadorans, Guatemalans and others

US Customs and Border Patrol officials check the papers of a Venezuelan family asking for asylum on the international bridge between Laredo, Texas, and Nuevo Laredo, Mexico in July. Photograph: The New York Times

US Customs and Border Patrol officials check the papers of a Venezuelan family asking for asylum on the international bridge between Laredo, Texas, and Nuevo Laredo, Mexico in July. Photograph: The New York Times

 

The United States supreme court on Wednesday allowed the Trump administration to bar most Central American migrants from seeking asylum in the US, while the legal fight plays out in the courts.

The Supreme Court, in a brief, unsigned order, said the administration may enforce new rules that generally forbid asylum applications from migrants who have travelled through another country on their way to the United States without being denied asylum in that country.

The court’s order was a major victory for the administration, allowing it to enforce a policy that will achieve one of its central goals: effectively barring most migration across the nation’s southwestern border by Hondurans, Salvadorans, Guatemalans and others.

Mexican migrants, who need not travel through another country to reach the United States, are not affected by the new policy.

It was the second time in recent months that the supreme court has allowed a major Trump administration immigration initiative to go forward. In July, the court allowed the administration to begin using $2.5 billion in Pentagon money for the construction of a barrier along the Mexican border. Last year, the court upheld US president Donald Trump’s ban on travel from several predominantly Muslim countries.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor, joined by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, dissented, saying the court’s action will “upend longstanding practices regarding refugees who seek shelter from persecution”.

The rules reversed long-standing asylum policies that allowed people to seek haven no matter how they got to the United States. A federal appeals court had largely blocked the policy.

Lee Gelernt, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union, which represents the challengers in the new case, stressed that the supreme court’s action was provisional. “This is just a temporary step,” he said, “and we’re hopeful we’ll prevail at the end of the day. The lives of thousands of families are at stake.”

The case will almost certainly return to the supreme court, but that will take many months. Kenneth Cuccinelli, the acting director of US Citizenship and Immigration Services, pledged on Wednesday night to “commence implementing the asylum rule ASAP”. – New York Times