Trump Asylum Transit Ban Blocked

Decision Preserves Important Protection for Thousands of Asylum Seekers Previously Turned Back at Ports of Entry

March 5, 2020

SAN FRANCISCO – A Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals panel today blocked the Trump administration’s asylum transit ban from being applied to thousands of asylum seekers who were unlawfully prevented from accessing the U.S. asylum process before the ban was implemented.

The decision lifts a prior administrative stay of the district court’s preliminary injunction. That injunction prohibits the government from applying the asylum ban to those who had been illegally metered before the ban went into effect. The Ninth Circuit found that the government failed to demonstrate that it would suffer irreparable harm if the injunction were to go into effect while the Ninth Circuit reviews the merits. The court also found that the government is unlikely to succeed in that appeal—that is, it is unlikely to demonstrate it had no duty to grant access to the asylum process to individuals metered prior to the implementation of the asylum ban. 

The case is Al Otro Lado v. Wolf, a class action lawsuit brought by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), Center for Constitutional Rights, American Immigration Council and Mayer Brown LLP on behalf of individual asylum seekers and the legal services organization Al Otro Lado (AOL).

“Today’s order will protect the lives of asylum seekers who were forced to endure extreme hardship while waiting in dangerous border cities for months for their chance to seek asylum in the United States,” said Erika Pinheiro, AOL Director of Litigation and Policy. “These asylum seekers have a deep commitment to following our laws in seeking protection, and we are relieved to see that their decision to follow our government’s instructions to wait in Mexico will not prejudice their chances for relief.”

Added Melissa Crow, senior supervising attorney with SPLC’s Immigrant Justice Project, “The decision is an important one for the thousands of asylum seekers who followed the ‘rules’—rules we contend are illegal—and waited their turn, only to be told they were out of luck once the transit rule was announced. These individuals, many of whom waited for months to apply for asylum, deserve an opportunity to have the merits of their asylum claims heard.”

The administration’s asylum transit ban requires asylum seekers to have been previously denied protection in a country they traveled through en route to the United States in order to be eligible for asylum here. After the ban went into nationwide effect in September, the rights groups filed a motion to protect the thousands of asylum seekers who would have crossed into the United States before the ban’s effective date of July 16, 2019, but for the government’s illegal metering policy that forced them to wait in Mexico before being inspected and processed at ports of entry.

“Today’s ruling is another important limitation on the Trump administration’s attack on asylum seekers and the asylum system, said Baher Azmy, legal director of the Center for Constitutional Rights. “It recognizes that courts can and should preserve this country’s commitment to international human rights principles. We hope the court’s decision will protect the lives and safety of thousands of vulnerable individuals fleeing dangerous conditions at home.”

The Ninth Circuit’s decision today prevents the application of the asylum ban to categorically deny asylum to those vulnerable asylum seekers who should have been processed months ago until the court rules on the government’s appeal of the district court’s order. The district court’s order applies to a provisional class that the court certified as part of its decision.  

Read more about the case on the Center for Constitutional Rights case page, SPLC’s website, and the American Immigration Council’s litigation site.

Today’s ruling can be viewed HERE.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, Center for Constitutional Rights, American Immigration Council and Mayer Brown LLP filed the lawsuit, Al Otro Lado v. Wolf, No. 3:17-cv-02366 (S.D. Cal.), in July 2017 on behalf of individual asylum seekers and Al Otro Lado, an immigration legal services provider with offices in Mexico and California. 


For more information, contact:

Maria Frausto, American Immigration Council, 202 507-7526, [email protected]; Jen Nessel, Center for Constitutional Rights, 212-614-6449, [email protected]; Marion Steinfels, SPLC, 202-557-0430, [email protected]
; and
Melissa Flores, Al Otro Lado, [email protected].

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