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Federal court vacates Trump administration asylum rule
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Federal court vacates Trump administration asylum rule

The US District Court for the District of Columbia struck down a Trump administration rule on Tuesday night that required migrants at the southern border to seek asylum from every country through which they passed before seeking asylum in the US.

Two separate lawsuits were initially filed by immigrant-services organizations and individual asylum applicants against the Trump administration, both challenging the interim final rule that would prevent migrants at the southern border from seeking asylum in the US unless they sought asylum from every country through which they passed on their way to the US. The rule barred both adults and unaccompanied minors.

In initially bringing the action, the Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights Coalition v. Trump plaintiffs were denied a temporary restraining order, as they “failed to show that the Rule would irreparably harm them.”  In the Northern District of California, the East Bay Sanctuary Covenant v. Barr plaintiffs challenged the rule and were granted a preliminary injunction.

On appeal, petitioners alleged that the rule was unlawful because it was contrary to the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) and the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act. Additionally, they stated that it was “arbitrary and capricious” and issued without the Administrative Procedure Act’s (APA) required notice-and-comment procedures.

The defendants initially challenged the standing of the plaintiffs, but the court found that there was standing. At least one organizational plaintiff in each case showed how the rule would frustrate their ability to provide legal services directly to asylum applicants.

On the merits of the case, the court stated that substantive rules are generally required to be promulgated through notice-and-comment rulemaking under the APA. There are exceptions to this, such as “good cause” and the “foreign affairs function” exception. However, the court found that neither exception applied in this case.

Therefore, the rule was not exempt from the APA’s notice-and-comment procedures. The court found that the rule was required to be promulgated under the notice-and-comment procedures, which had not been done. Because of this, the court vacated the rule, even without reaching the petitioners’ other arguments.