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Supreme Court rejects Trump's asylum ban in 5-4 ruling as Chief Justice Roberts sides with liberal judges

The decision leaves in place a lower court ruling that blocked the president's proclamation.
Image: Unaccompanied minors, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America trying to reach the United States, are escorted by U.S. CBP officers as they have been processed for asylum at the Otay Mesa port of entry in San Diego
Unaccompanied minors are escorted by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers as they processed for asylum at the Otay Mesa port of entry in San Diego on Dec. 17, 2018.Carlos Barria / Reuters

The Supreme Court on Friday refused to allow the government to enforce President Donald Trump's ban on asylum for immigrants who attempt to cross the southern border illegally.

The court voted 5-4 to leave a lower court ruling in place that blocks enforcement of the crackdown.

Chief Justice John Roberts, a conservative judge who was appointed by Republican President George W. Bush, voted with the court's four liberals. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, one of the courts liberal judges, also voted before the 85-year-old jurist underwent a pulmonary lobectomy at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City to remove cancerous growths from her lung.

Newly appointed Justice Brett Kavanaugh, along with the court's three other conservative justices, sided with the administration. Neither side issued opinions explaining their votes.

The decision leaves in place a lower court ruling that blocked the president's proclamation that stopped the government from considering requests for asylum from anyone who'd crossed the southern border illegally. Only asylum claims made at border checkpoints would be considered.

The move by the administration, which was put in place in November, was in response to a caravan of migrants making its way to the U.S.-Mexico border.

After Trump signed the proclamation, an immigrant rights group immediately sued and, on Nov. 19, Federal District Court Judge Jon S. Tigar ordered the administration to stop enforcing the new rules.

He said Trump's order violated existing federal law that requires the government to consider asylum requests from anyone who manages to get inside the US, no matter how an immigrant arrived.

"He may not rewrite the immigration laws to impose a condition that Congress has expressly forbidden," wrote Tigar, who was nominated to the bench by President Barack Obama.

Trump swiftly criticized Tigar's ruling, saying it came from "an Obama judge." That comment that generated a rare retort from Roberts who said, "We do not have Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges. What we have is an extraordinary group of dedicated judges doing their level best to do equal right to those appearing before them."