WASHINGTON, United States, Dec 20 – A US federal judge dealt a new setback to President Donald Trump’s anti-immigration efforts Wednesday, declaring unlawful a decision to block domestic and gang violence victims from seeking asylum.
US District Judge Emmet Sullivan in Washington branded the restrictions “arbitrary, capricious, and in violation of the immigration laws.”
“It is the will of Congress – not the whims of the executive – that determines the standard for expedited removal,” he wrote.
On June 11, then-attorney general Jeff Sessions announced that being a victim of domestic violence or a gang target was not sufficient grounds to seek asylum.
“The asylum statute does not provide redress for all misfortune,” Sessions said at the time.
Twelve Central American asylum seekers – all facing deportation – then filed suit with the backing of immigrant rights groups.
Sullivan sided with them, suspending the restrictions and ordering that the plaintiffs’ deportation orders be cancelled – or that those who had already been deported be brought back to the US.
It followed his similar order in August to halt the deportation of a mother and daughter and return them to the US after removal proceedings began amid their appeal.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said the ruling will “will further overwhelm our immigration courts with merit-less cases” and “encourage more illegal immigration.”
“Today’s ruling is only the latest example of judicial activism that encourages migrants to take dangerous risks; empowers criminal organizations that spread turmoil in our hemisphere; and undermines the laws, borders, Constitution, and sovereignty of the United States,” she added in a statement.
Last month, a Californian judge blocked another administration attempt to automatically reject asylum seekers who cross the border illegally, sparking fury from the president.
Trump’s flagship effort – a travel ban for citizens from several mostly Muslim countries — was also repeatedly blocked before the Supreme Court approved the latest version.