“This new Rule is likely invalid because it is inconsistent with the existing asylum laws,” U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar wrote in his order.
The Justice Department and Department of Homeland Security created a rule on July 16 barring asylum-seekers who pass through Mexico or another country first from being eligible for asylum at the southern U.S. border.
Exceptions to the rule included if someone has been trafficked, if an asylum-seeker sought and was denied protection in another country, or if the country the migrant passed through did not sign one of the major international treaties that govern refugee resettlement.
The rule targeted the tens of thousands of Central American adults and children who cross through Mexico every month en route to the U.S., but it also affected asylum-seekers from Africa, Asia and South America.
Tigar, an Obama appointee, halted another version of the Trump administration’s asylum restrictions last year.
Current U.S. law allows refugees to request asylum when they arrive at the border, regardless of how they got there.
President Donald Trump and his administration said the changes were intended to curb the number of migrants who are detained at the border, as widespread outrage over the conditions at immigrant detention facilities continues to mount.
But immigrant rights groups, religious leaders and humanitarian groups have deemed the rule a cruel effort to keep immigrants out of the country as Central American nations like Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador are suffering from violence and poverty.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, American Civil Liberties Union and Center for Constitutional Rights celebrated Tigar’s ruling on Wednesday.
“Today’s ruling is an important victory for incredibly vulnerable individuals and families from besieged Central American countries seeking refuge in our country,” Melissa Crow, the senior supervising attorney at the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Immigrant Justice Project, said in a statement.
She added: “We will continue to fight this draconian policy as well as the myriad of others through which the Trump administration continues to wage war on asylum-seekers and our nation’s asylum system.”
In a separate hearing on a similar lawsuit earlier on Wednesday, a federal judge in Washington, D.C., declined to halt the policy.
U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly, a Trump appointee, declined to block the rule, saying the immigrant advocate groups who filed a suit challenging it did not show that their work would be irreparably harmed if the policy moved forward.
Speaking with reporters outside the White House on Wednesday, Trump said Kelly’s ruling “helps us very much at the border.”
“So the asylum is a very big ruling. That was a tremendous ruling today,” the president said. “We appreciate it. We respect the courts very much.”
Read Tigar’s ruling below: