Judge Rules Against Trump's 'Third-Country' Asylum Policy

A federal judge appointed by President Donald Trump dealt a blow to the administration's immigration policy in a new ruling, shooting down what's known as the third-country asylum rule.

NBC News reported that U.S. District Judge Timothy J. Kelly in Washington, D.C., issued a decision Tuesday night that said forcing migrants traveling from Central America to first seek asylum in Mexico before trying to do so in the United States goes against federal law from a procedural perspective.

Kelly cited the Administrative Procedure Act, which stipulates that the government must follow certain guidelines before implementing federal rules and regulations — including allowing the public to review a proposal and comment on it.

"There are many circumstances in which courts appropriately defer to the national security judgments of the Executive," Kelly wrote in his decision. "But determining the scope of an APA exception is not one of them."

The asylum policy began in July 2019 after the administration dealt with a months-long surge of migrants coming to the U.S. border to seek asylum. It forced anyone who had to travel from their home country through Mexico to reach the U.S. border to first seek asylum in Mexico, which cut off people from Central American countries.

Pro-immigration groups challenged the rule in court. In November 2019, a U.S. district judge in California partially blocked the policy. That followed an unsigned order issued by the Supreme Court in September that allowed the practice to continue, The Washington Post noted.

Attorney Neal Katyal, a former acting solicitor general and a member of the legal team representing the plaintiffs in the case, tweeted Tuesday night, "This decision invalidates Trump's 'asylum ban' at the Southern border. The decision by Judge Kelly, who President Trump appointed to the bench in 2017, goes into effect immediately."

The Post pointed out that Kelly's decision claims the Trump administration used one source for much of its argument to enact the third-country rule: a newspaper article from October 2018.

"The article does little if anything to support Defendants' prediction that undertaking notice-and-comment rulemaking would have led to a dramatic, immediate surge of asylum applicants at the border," Kelly wrote.

"And other articles from the administrative record that Defendants cite either do not support, or even undermine, their prediction of such a surge."

The ruling comes on the heels of a Supreme Court decision in mid-June that rejected the Trump administration's attempt to end legal protections for hundreds of thousands of immigrants who are in the U.S. under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program after they traveled here as migrant children with their parents.