Federal courthouse
Federal courthouse in downtown San Diego. Photo by Chris Stone

A San Diego federal judge ruled Tuesday that the government’s asylum ban on migrants attempting to enter the U.S. does not apply to those who traveled to the border prior to the policy.

The decision paves the way for migrants instructed by immigration officials to wait in Mexico to have their claims heard.

The ruling from U.S. District Court Judge Cynthia A. Bashant stemmed from a class-action lawsuit brought by immigrant legal services firm Al Otro Lado.

The firm alleges the government used “misrepresentations, threats and intimidation” to deter migrants from seeking asylum. The tactics, they said, serve “the Trump administration’s broader, public(ly) proclaimed goal of deterring individuals from seeking access to the asylum process.”

One of those tactics is a “metering” policy. In those cases authorities tell migrants to wait on the Mexican side of the border before making an asylum claim because the ports of entry are at capacity.

Many who did so prior to the July 16 issuing of the ban found that officials turned them away after it took effect.  The court documents state this happened even though they waited in Mexico as instructed.

Bashant’s ruling said that migrants who waited in Mexico “did exactly what the government told them to do.”

She continued: “They did not make direct claims for asylum at a POE and instead returned to Mexico to wait for an opportunity to access the asylum process in the United States.”

The government has since claimed “that these class members never attempted to enter, entered, or arrived at a POE” prior to July 16, the judge wrote.

The judge added that “although these individuals had already attempted to seek asylum in the United States and returned to Mexico only at instruction of the government, the government intends to construe the fact that they were waiting in Mexico on or after July 16, 2019 as a failure to arrive in the United States before that date.”

– City News Service