Ruling backs asylum seekers at border prior to policy shift

SAN DIEGO (AP) – A federal judge ruled on Tuesday that a partial ban on asylum does not apply to anyone who appeared at an official United States (US) border crossing before the policy was announced in July, a decision that may affect thousands of people.

The Trump administration announced on July 16 that it would deny asylum to anyone who travelled through another country without applying there first. The ban was on hold until the US Supreme Court decided on September 11 that it could take effect during a legal challenge.

Immigrant advocates went to court on behalf of migrants who heeded instructions of the US government and waited at official crossings to request asylum, rather than cross the border illegally.

The advocates said the administration engaged in an “immoral bait-and-switch” against those immigrants by imposing the ban after they arrived at the border crossing. US District Judge Cynthia Bashant ruled in their favour on Tuesday, saying anyone who appeared at a US border crossing with Mexico before July 16 would be exempt from the ban.

“(These) asylum seekers understood their access to asylum in the US to be premised on their willingness to wait in Mexico,” Bashant wrote. “In reliance on this representation by the US Government, they did so. The Government – in a shift that can be considered, at best, misleading, and at worst, duplicitous – now seeks to change course.”

File photo shows asylum seekers in Tijuana, Mexico. A federal judge has ruled that a partial ban on asylum doesn’t apply to anyone who appeared at an official border crossing before July 16 to make a claim, a move that could spare thousands of people. PHOTO: AP