Judge Rules Against Trump’s Asylum Reforms, Says Deportees Should Be Returned

Zachary Stieber
By Zachary Stieber
December 20, 2018Politics

A federal judge ruled this week that President Donald Trump’s asylum reforms violated federal law despite the reforms only taking the rules on asylum back to where they were before former President Barack Obama’s time in office.

The ruling by Bill Clinton-appointed U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan came on Dec. 19, just a day after he had to walk back accusations he made while presiding over a hearing for former Trump adviser Michael Flynn.

The rules Sullivan derided as violations of federal law dealt with credible fear, the criteria that the United States uses to determine if refugees should be granted asylum.

“The Court holds that it has jurisdiction to hear plaintiffs’ challenges to the credible fear policies, that it has the authority to order the injunctive relief, and that, with the exception of two policies, the new credible fear policies are arbitrary, capricious, and in violation of the immigration laws,” he wrote in his ruling.

Sullivan claimed that not only was the administration wrong in revising the rules on credible fear, but officials should return people who were deported under the revised rules.

The White House slammed the ruling.

“Today, a court has, once again, overridden and undermined United States immigration law. Under the law, asylum is a discretionary benefit for aliens who have a well-founded fear of persecution on account of their race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group. Today’s ruling will further overwhelm our immigration courts with meritless cases, making the existing massive backlog even worse,” said Sarah Saunders, press secretary, in a statement.

“It will also encourage more illegal immigration to the United States, to the benefit of ruthless smuggling organizations that too often victimize young women and children.”

migrant caravan climbs border wall
Migrants break through the U.S. border fence just beyond the east pedestrian entrance of the San Ysidro crossing in Tijuana, Mexico, on Nov. 25, 2018. (Charlotte Cuthbertson/The Epoch Times)

More than 800,000 asylum-seekers are already in the United States awaiting adjudication of their claims. The immigration court system is so bogged down that it will take at least seven years to clear the existing claims, even if no new ones are added.

“Today’s ruling is only the latest example of judicial activism that encourages migrants to take dangerous risks; empowers criminal organizations that spread turmoil in our hemisphere; and undermines the laws, borders, Constitution, and sovereignty of the United States. We will continue to fight for the rule of law and against these reckless rulings,” she added.

The ruling came on the same day that U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar extended a ban on Trump’s attempt to revise another portion of immigration policy. In early November, Trump said in an executive order that aliens who entered the United States outside official ports of entries would not be eligible for asylum.

Tigar ruled on Nov. 20 that the order was outside of the president’s authority. Tigar has since twice extended a temporary ban on enforcing the order until the court case is resolved.

Trump has said that these rulings on immigration will be overturned by the Supreme Court.

border patrol finds illegal aliens
A view from a Border Patrol helicopter, shows the Texas Border Patrol and Texas State Troopers detaining illegal aliens who were trying to remain hidden after they came over to the United States from Mexico in the Texas area of near McAllen, Texas, on May 30, 2017. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times)


In July, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions restored the definition of credible fear, or the acceptable conditions for refugees claiming asylum, to where it was before the Obama administration broadened it in 2014.

Under the revised criteria, foreigners who were fleeing domestic abuse or local criminal activity were not eligible for asylum.

Asylum seekers have always needed to prove that they have suffered past persecution or have a well-founded fear of future persecution in their home country due to their race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group.

But persecution is generally considered state-sanctioned or condoned, which means the government of the alien’s home country is the sponsor of the persecution. For example, in North Korea, the regime itself persecutes Christians.

In the case of domestic violence, where the persecutor is a private actor, “applicants must show that their home government either condoned the private behavior or demonstrated a complete helplessness to protect them,” the Department of Homeland Security said.

“It is not enough to simply show that the government has difficulty controlling the behavior or that certain populations are more likely to be victims of crime.”

Epoch Times reporter Charlotte Cuthbertson contributed to this report.

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