SAN DIEGO (AP) – A federal judge on Tuesday ordered the Biden administration to lift Trump-era asylum restrictions that have been a cornerstone of border enforcement since the beginning of COVID-19.
United States (US) District Judge Emmet Sullivan ruled in Washington that enforcement must end immediately for families and single adults, calling the ban “arbitrary and capricious”. The administration has not applied it to children travelling alone.
Within hours, the Justice Department asked the judge to let the order take effect on December 21, giving it five weeks to prepare. Plaintiffs including the American Civil Liberties Union didn’t oppose the delay.
“This transition period is critical to ensuring that (the Department of Homeland Security) can continue to carry out its mission to secure the Nation’s borders and to conduct its border operations in an orderly fashion,” government attorneys wrote.
Sullivan, who was appointed by President Bill Clinton, wrote in a 49-page ruling that authorities failed to consider the impact on migrants and possible alternatives.
The ruling appears to conflict with another in May by a federal judge in Louisiana that kept the asylum restrictions.
If Sullivan’s ruling stands, it would upend border enforcement. Migrants have been expelled from the US more than 2.4 million times since the rule took effect in March 2020, denying migrants rights to seek asylum under US and international law on grounds of preventing the spread of COVID-19.
The practice was authorised under Title 42 of a broader 1944 law covering public health.