Federal judge stops Donald Trump's crackdown on asylum for domestic violence survivors

A U.S. district judge that preventing alleged domestic and gang violence victims from seeking asylum is illegal

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published December 19, 2018 4:33PM (EST)

Central American migrants walking to the U.S. start their day departing Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico, Sunday, Oct. 21, 2018.  (Getty/AP/Salon)
Central American migrants walking to the U.S. start their day departing Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico, Sunday, Oct. 21, 2018. (Getty/AP/Salon)

On Wednesday a U.S. district judge dismissed policies implemented by President Donald Trump's Justice Department that made it more difficult for immigrants to seek asylum by claiming that they were fleeing domestic or gang violence in their home countries.

In a decision which ruled that the Justice Department's new policies violated existing immigration law, Judge Emmet Sullivan permanently prohibited the government "from continuing to apply those policies and from removing plaintiffs who are currently in the United States without first providing credible fear determinations consistent with the immigration laws," according to NBC News. In addition, Sullivan ordered the federal government to "return to the United States the plaintiffs who were unlawfully deported and to provide them with new credible fear determinations consistent with the immigration laws."

The original policy prevented asylum-seekers from obtaining "credible fear" of return to their home countries, according to Politico. Sullivan argued that this was not the intent of the immigration laws passed by Congress, adding that "because it is the will of Congress — not the whims of the executive — that determines the standard for expedited removal, the court finds that those policies are unlawful."

Sullivan also made news this week by lambasting Trump's former national security adviser Michael Flynn, according to The Washington Post. In a speech that scolded Flynn for lying to the FBI and undermining America's own interests, Sullivan proclaimed that "this is a very serious offense" and that "arguably, you sold your country out." He also blasted special counsel Robert Mueller's prosecutorial team for not providing him with full details about the assistance that Flynn had provided their investigation, which they used as the basis for recommending little to no jail time. According to Sullivan, it would be impossible to come to a reasonable decision about Flynn's sentence without being aware of exactly how his cooperation had helped Mueller's probe.

This is the second major setback to Trump's immigration policies in roughly a month. In November, U.S. District Judge Jon S. Tigar issued a nationwide restraining order barring the implementation of Trump's policy refusing to grant asylum to migrants who entered America through its southern border in an illegal fashion, according to The Washington Post. In his temporary restraining order, Tigar wrote that "the rule barring asylum for immigrants who enter the country outside a port of entry irreconcilably conflicts with the INA and the expressed intent of Congress. Whatever the scope of the President’s authority, he may not rewrite the immigration laws to impose a condition that Congress has expressly forbidden."

Tigar added, "Defendants’ claims that the rule can somehow be harmonized with the INA are not persuasive. Also, Plaintiffs and the immigrants they represent will suffer irreparable injury if the rule goes into effect pending resolution of this case. Asylum seekers will be put at increased risk of violence and other harms at the border, and many will be deprived of meritorious asylum claims. The government offers nothing in support of the new rule that outweighs the need to avoid these harms."

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer at Salon. He received a Master's Degree in History from Rutgers-Newark in 2012 and was awarded a science journalism fellowship from the Metcalf Institute in 2022.

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All Salon Asylum Donald Trump Emmet Sullivan Immigration News & Politics