In an order laced with language accusing President Donald Trump of attempting to rewrite immigration laws, a federal judge based in San Francisco temporarily blocked the government late Monday night from denying asylum to those crossing over the southern border between ports of entry.
Judge Jon S. Tigar of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California said that a policy announced November 9 barring asylum for immigrants who enter outside a legal check point '"irreconcilably conflicts" with immigration law and the "expressed intent of Congress."
"Whatever the scope of the President's authority, he may not rewrite the immigration laws to impose a condition that Congress has expressly forbidden," Tigar wrote, adding that asylum seekers would be put at "increased risk of violence and other harms at the border" if the administration's rule is allowed to go into effect.
The temporary restraining order is effective nationwide and will remain in effect until December 19, when the judge has scheduled another hearing, or further order of the court.
The order is the latest setback for the administration that has sought to crack down on what it says are flaws in the immigration system, and it is a victory for the American Civil Liberties Union, the Southern Poverty Law Center and other groups who argued it is illegal to block someone based on how they entered the country.
"This ban is illegal, will put people's lives in danger and raises the alarm about President Trump's disregard for separation of powers," said the ACLU's Lee Gelernt.
"There is no justifiable reason to flatly deny people the right to apply for asylum, and we cannot send them back to danger based on the manner of their entry," he said.
Earlier this month, the President issued a proclamation referring to "large, organized groups" who were traveling through Mexico and "reportedly intend to enter the United States unlawfully or without proper documentation and to seek asylum."
It said that those seeking entry can only do so temporarily at recognized ports of entry to allow for "orderly processing" and denied entry to those at any other location along the southern border.
"But aliens who enter the United States unlawfully through the southern border in contravention of this proclamation will be ineligible to be granted asylum," the President wrote.
"The arrival of large numbers of aliens will contribute to the overloading of our immigration and asylum system and to the release of thousands of aliens into the interior of the United States," the proclamation read.