In a 5-4 vote last week, the Supreme Court upheld a federal judge’s order which prevents the Trump administration from barring asylum claims from immigrants who cross the U.S.-Mexico border illegally. Chief Justice John Roberts and the court’s four liberal justices voted for the lower-court ruling to remain, while newly appointed Justice Brett Kavanaugh and the court’s three other conservatives sided with the president.
The administration’s policy was signed in November, temporarily banning asylum seekers who fail to enter the United States outside of official ports of entry. This move was a response to the Central American caravan making its way to the southern U.S. border.
Soon after Trump signed the proclamation, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit against the administration soon after and Federal District Judge Jon S. Tigar of California blocked the order. When the case made its way to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the court agreed with the federal judge.
Tigar said the ban conflicts with federal law which allow immigrants to apply for asylum no matter if they enter the country legally or illegally. The Supreme Court reviewed the case and determined that the administration had no plausible argument for the legality of the new policy.
Justice Department Solicitor General Noel Francisco informed the highest court the proclamation was meant to guide asylum seekers to enter the country through these official ports to be processed in an orderly manner, reduce the backlog of “meritless” claims, and avoid the dangers of illegal entries.
In October, a migrant caravan consisting of thousands of people from Honduras and other Central American countries spent over a month traveling north toward the United States, reigniting a national debate about asylum seekers.