U.S. Can Block Migrants Seeking Asylum, but Only in Some States, Appeals Court Rules

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A federal appeals court said Friday that President Trump can begin blocking some Central American migrants from applying for asylum in the United States, but only along parts of the border with Mexico.

Migrants who seek asylum in New Mexico and Texas can be subjected to the administration’s new rules, which effectively prohibit them from requesting protection if they traveled through another country on their way to the United States unless they already tried and failed to receive asylum in that other country or countries, the court said.

But the ruling by the three-judge panel for the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in San Francisco, is only a partial victory for Mr. Trump, whose immigration agenda has repeatedly been delayed by judges.

In July, a lower court had blocked the president’s new asylum rules after finding that the administration had probably violated the procedures required to put those regulations in place. The judge suspended the asylum rules nationwide while the court challenge continued.

The appeals court agreed with the lower court, but said that the judge had not provided enough evidence that the rules should be blocked across the country. The appeals panel narrowed the judge’s ruling, deciding that the tough asylum rules could not go into effect in the Ninth Circuit, which covers California and Arizona.

The ruling means that the administration can begin blocking the Central American migrants in two border states: New Mexico, which is covered by the 10th Circuit, and Texas, which is covered by the Fifth Circuit. Immigrants from Honduras, for example, who enter the United States through those states will be eligible for asylum protections only if they had first been denied asylum in Guatemala or Mexico.

Lee Gelernt, the lead lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union in the legal challenge to the asylum rules, said his organization plans to provide the judge in the case with more information about why the president’s rules should be blocked nationwide.

“We will put in additional evidence about the need for a nationwide injunction,” Mr. Gelernt said. “We are hopeful and optimistic that the nationwide injunction will be reinstated.”

But Mr. Gelernt also expressed optimism that the court would eventually conclude that the president’s policy violates federal law and should be permanently blocked. He said the court rejected the Trump administration’s argument that the policy should be allowed to go into effect nationwide.

“The overriding takeaway was that the court did not feel this was clearly legal,” Mr. Gelernt said.

It was not clear if the Trump administration would immediately begin carrying out the new rules in Texas and New Mexico. A spokesman for the Justice Department declined to comment about the ruling by the appeals court.

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