Judge lets asylum-seekers lawsuit to continue against Trump administration

A federal judge rejected the Trump administration’s attempt to dismiss a lawsuit that challenges turning back asylum-seekers at the southern border.
Image: Migrants from Mexico, El Salvador, China and Colombia are detained by U.S. Border Patrol agents after illegally crossing the Rio Grande near Mission
Migrants from Mexico, El Salvador, China and Colombia are detained by U.S. Border Patrol agents after illegally crossing the Rio Grande near Mission, Texas on July 26, 2019.Loren Elliott / Reuters

Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.
SUBSCRIBE
By Daniella Silva

A federal judge rejected the Trump administration’s second attempt to dismiss a lawsuit that challenges turning back asylum-seekers who present themselves at ports of entry along the southern border.

U.S. District Judge Cynthia Bashant ruled against the government’s motion to dismiss part of a second amended complaint in the lawsuit, according to court documents released Monday.

The Morning Rundown

Get a head start on the morning's top stories.

“Turning back prospective asylum applicants pursuant to an alleged executive policy that seeks to deter asylum seekers through false assertions of lack of capacity is plausibly inconsistent with and violative of the scheme Congress enacted,” Bashant wrote in the 84-page order.

The class-action lawsuit was filed by Al Otro Lado, an organization that provides legal services to migrants, and 13 individual asylum-seekers in the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of California. The suit claims that Customs and Border Protection under the Trump administration has “systematically restricted” the number of asylum-seekers who can access the U.S. asylum process at entry points across the border.

"We have seen the tragic human consequences of the Turnback Policy on thousands of vulnerable people who, after making a long, harrowing journey to escape their persecutors, face bullying and rejection by Customs and Border Protection officers who simply tell them to turn around and wait in very dangerous conditions,” Erika Pinheiro, litigation and policy director of plaintiff Al Otro Lado, said in a statement Tuesday.

“We are grateful that the court recognized that the administration cannot evade its legal obligations by denying access to the asylum process,” she added.

The Department of Justice declined comment. The government has until August 16 to respond to the second amended complaint, according to court documents.

Among the tactics being targeted by the lawsuit is the use of “metering,” or limiting the number of migrants who can enter at a port of entry per day.

“This is an important ruling in our fight against CBP turnbacks of asylum seekers at the U.S.-Mexico border through metering and other tactics,” Melissa Crow, senior supervising attorney with the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Immigrant Justice Project, said in the statement.