A federal judge on Tuesday blocked President Joe Biden’s new border policy that imposed restrictions on immigrants seeking asylum.
This was credited with reducing the number of illegal crossings.
And it marks a bitter blow for Biden. The White House quickly said the Justice Department would appeal the ruling.
Biden came to power promising to reverse many of Donald Trump’s tough policies.
But his administration introduced a new series of asylum restrictions earlier this year as Title 42, a pandemic-era measure that allows many immigrants to be deported immediately, expires.
President Joe Biden suffered a setback on Tuesday over border restrictions imposed by a California judge over the expiration of Title 42.
Asylum-seeking migrants sit near a wire fence awaiting transport by US law enforcement officials after crossing the Rio Grande River from Mexico at Eagle Pass
This has sparked a series of lawsuits by Republican states as well as refugee advocacy groups.
In bringing the suit, the ACLU accused the Biden administration of following the Trump playbook by denying asylum to people who traveled through third countries to reach the border without applying for asylum.
‘Despite the administration’s efforts to distinguish its proposal from Trump’s, they share a common core, which is to penalize people for not requesting asylum in countries they must travel to to reach the United States, such as Mexico and Guatemala.’
‘This ignores the obvious reason why so many people do not seek asylum there: these countries do not offer real sanctuary to migrants fleeing persecution.’
California Northern District Court Judge John Tigger upheld their arguments in his ruling but stayed the stay for 14 days to allow for a possible appeal.
The ACLU welcomed the ruling.
“The administration now faces a choice: follow the law, or try to block the ruling from taking effect within 14 days, leaving people in grave danger to seek safety,” the group tweeted.
And Melissa Crowe, director of litigation at the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies, said: ‘The court got it right.
“We call on the administration to stop defending this illegal policy.”
A group of about 60 Venezuelan migrants turn themselves in to border patrol after crossing the Rio Grande in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, on July 20.
The ACLU called on the Biden administration to follow the law after the ruling
In his 35-page ruling, Tiger said US law specifically states that crossing the border illegally should not be a bar to asylum.
And it only allows migrants to be turned away if they have traveled through a country that ‘presents a safer alternative’.
‘The rules – which have been in place for two months – cannot remain in place,’ he concluded.
Tiger was nominated to the bench by President Barack Obama and has been responsible for repeatedly blocking similar sanctions imposed by the Trump administration.
White House press secretary Karin Jean-Pierre responded during her daily briefing.
‘Nothing has changed. There is a position, which means our border enforcement plan is fully operational,’ he said.
‘The Department of Justice will appeal the decision and seek to extend the stay.
‘And as we’ve said multiple times, our border enforcement plan works. It’s prevention, it’s diplomacy and enforcement.’
The Biden administration has struggled to control the crossing.
Under Operation Lone Star, Texas deployed thousands of National Guard troops to the border and set up a floating barrier on the Rio Grande River.
However, recent data from US Customs and Border Protection suggests the new system is working. Border agents tried to cross about 144,000 people in June, down 30 percent from May.
Meanwhile, the Department of Justice has begun legal action against Texas to remove barriers placed on the Rio Grande River.
An administration official accused Governor Greg Abbott of playing a dangerous ‘political game’ with the lives of people trying to reach safety.
Abbott appeared to relish the move, saying in a statement just before the Justice Department made its move: ‘Texas will see you in court, Mr. President.’
He placed large plastic buoys in the river near the town of Eagle Pass earlier this month, among a series of measures designed to keep people from crossing.
The Biden administration says it does not have the authority to take such action.
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