NEW YORK – Catholic immigration advocates have applauded a federal judge for blocking a new Biden administration rule that limits asylum, arguing that from its enactment the rule was always unlawful and unjust.
On July 25, U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar of the Northern District of California struck down the rule, but stayed his decision for 14 days, leaving it in place for now and giving the Biden administration a chance to appeal, which it intends to do.
The Biden administration’s new immigration rule went into effect May 12 after the lifting of Title 42 a day earlier. Under the policy, migrants are expelled, and disqualified from applying for asylum, unless they schedule an appointment at an official port of entry or prove that they sought legal protection in a country they traveled through to get here.
Tigar looked at the new rule because it was challenged by immigration advocacy groups. In his 35-page decision, he ruled that the policy is “both substantively and procedurally invalid.”
“The Court concludes that the Rule is contrary to law because it presumes ineligible for asylum noncitizens who enter between ports of entry, using a manner of entry that Congress expressly intended should not affect access to asylum,” Tigar wrote.
“The Rule is also contrary to law because it presumes ineligible for asylum noncitizens who fail to apply for protection in a transit country, despite Congress’s clear intent that such a factor should only limit access to asylum where the transit country actually presents a safe option.”
Tigar struck down a similar rule put in place by the Trump administration in 2019, as well.
Dylan Corbett, executive director of the El Paso-based HOPE Border Institute, said in a statement that it’s clear “there is no legal basis for the Biden administration’s asylum ban.”
“Effective management of the border does not need to come at the cost of the rights and dignity of asylum seekers and vulnerable migrants,” Corbett said. “Rather than continuing to defend the indefensible in the courts, the administration should take strong action now to fully restore asylum at the border.”
The number of illegal border crossings has fallen since the new policy went into effect. However, the figures are still historically high. According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection data, there were 211,575 migrant encounters at the border in June, compared to 275,245 in May, and 276,078 in April. The vast majority of encounters remain single adults.
A spokesperson for the Department of Justice told Crux it disagrees with Tigar’s decision.
“The Justice Department disagrees with the district court’s ruling today in the East Bay case and intends to appeal the decision and to seek a stay pending appeal,” the spokesperson said. “We remain confident in our position that the Circumvention of Lawful Pathways rule is a lawful exercise of the broad authority granted by the immigration laws.”
However, Anna Gallagher, executive director of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, argued in a statement that “any barriers to asylum that undermine the principles of U.S. law and Catholic social teaching with respect to migration, and fail to uphold due process, are contrary to the values we hold dear as a compassionate and just society.”
Joan Rosenhauer, executive director of Jesuit Refugee Service/USA, said in a statement that with the ruling the Biden administration should now pursue “solutions that welcome asylum seekers and promote their rights, dignity, and overall well-being.”
A spokesperson for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops told Crux in a statement that the conference welcomes the ruling, and that it will “continue to monitor the case closely.”
Follow John Lavenburg on Twitter: @johnlavenburg