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Judge Blocks Trump Administration's New Asylum Policy

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

A federal judge in California has blocked the Trump administration's latest effort to slow the flow of migrants crossing the southern border. The new rule would have required most asylum-seekers to ask for protection in another country before reaching the U.S. This is the latest legal setback for the Trump administration's asylum crackdown. KQED's Farida Jhabvala Romero was in the courtroom today and joins us now on the line. Hi there.

FARIDA JHABVALA ROMERO, BYLINE: Hi.

SHAPIRO: Tell us about what the judge said in his ruling tonight. Why did he block this new rule?

ROMERO: So Judge Jon Tigar basically said that this new rule is likely invalid because it is inconsistent with the existing asylum laws. And so he also said that Congress already created a bar for asylum-seekers who may be removed to a safe third country, including some protections that - like the alien's life or freedom would not be threatened, ensuring that the person would have access to full and fair procedure for asylum. And the judge said that this new rule doesn't include any of those protections and that it also may violate the APA - Administrative Procedure Act - because it didn't allow the public to be notified and for public comment before it was issued.

SHAPIRO: And what about the immigrant rights groups that oppose this in the first place? What are they saying?

ROMERO: Right. So there were four immigrant advocate groups that sued based in California. And they said that this rule violates immigration law in the U.S. because they say that Congress didn't intend for people to be denied asylum depending on the route they took to get to the U.S. And they also had some challenges with how the rule was issued without public comment.

SHAPIRO: This is not the only court ruling on this asylum policy today. A different federal judge - one in D.C. - came to the opposite conclusion, turning down a request for a temporary restraining order. So what does that mean? What happens next?

ROMERO: Yeah. So what I heard from ACLU attorneys who are arguing this case is that this preliminary injunction by Judge John Tigar takes precedence. And so the rule as of now is blocked nationwide.

SHAPIRO: As you mentioned, last week, we interviewed the head of Customs and Border Protection, Mark Morgan. He said that he expected this to be enjoined by the court and that, in fact, it was just a pilot program being rolled out in one place. Explain the reason the Trump administration was trying to limit who can get asylum and putting up all these obstacles.

ROMERO: Well, this is the latest effort from the Trump administration to restrict the number of people that can be considered for asylum in the U.S. And, you know, top officials with the administration and in court filings - they say that the immigration system is really overwhelmed by the number of people that are seeking asylum and applying for asylum in the U.S. and that many of these folks have meritless asylum claims. And so they say that this rule and other efforts they've taken to tackle this is really to reduce the number of meritless claims and take some of the pressure off border authorities, especially with overcrowded facilities, and also to reduce the backlog of immigration cases in court.

SHAPIRO: That's KQED's Farida Jhabvala Romero on a judge's ruling blocking the Trump administration's latest asylum policy.

Good to talk to you - thanks a lot.

ROMERO: Thank you, Ari.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.